First, I must apologize for the length of this article but as a Caps fan I have been waiting a long, long time to write about a Washington Capitals extended overtime playoff victory.
How big was the 4-3 double overtime win against the New York Rangers for the Washington Capitals? It was huge and to say that this win looms larger than the city they earned it in is an understatement.
The Washington Capitals who never win extended overtime playoff games, won one last night.
The Capitals, who are most notorious come playoff time for losing not one, but two quadruple-overtime playoff games in their history, finally won a playoff game that extended beyond one overtime.
I promise that is the last time I will say the Capitals won an extended overtime playoff game.
"History will be made" is how the NHL portrays the playoffs in a commercial. In two of those commercials, the Capitals are seen winning an overtime playoff game and losing an overtime playoff game.
The irony is in the one they are shown winning. The date was April 16, 1988. It was Game 7 and the Capitals were battling the Philadelphia Flyers. Oh by the way, the Capitals also trailed in that game 3-0.
The Capitals came all the way back as Dale Hunter beat Flyers goalie Ron Hextall on a breakaway to end the series and temporarily lift the playoff monkey off their backs that existed even back then.
Last night it was Jason Chimera, and while it was no breakaway (Alex Ovechkin had that shot) that ended the 92 minute and 36-second game, it was still a jump out of your seat and hit your hand on the ceiling fan moment.
The Washington Capitals now lead the best of seven series 3-1 and are headed back home to DC for Game 5 on Saturday.
Something had to give in this game. Both teams had a couple of unbeaten streaks that were more than likely going to end in this series.
The Rangers were 29-0-0 when leading after two periods during the regular season. The Washington Capitals were money in the bank when scoring three or more goals. They were 39-0-3 during the regular season when reaching the three-goal plateau.
This game tugged at every emotion we as human beings and fans have in our bodies. There was frustration and anger after the Rangers scored two goals in seven seconds.
There was sadness, reflecting on Washington's playoff past when they trailed 3-0 after two periods.
There was hope beginning to build following the Caps' two quick goals. You had to temper the emotions because you still knew the Rangers were unbeaten all year when leading after two periods.
Then all of a sudden there was, “can this really be happening” after Johansson tied the game. For once the “can you believe this feeling" was not the same “can you believe this” from playoff pasts.
Having already gone through a roller coaster ride of emotions, then came overtime. That meant anxiety and nervousness. Every Capitals fan knows Washington’s playoff history, especially in overtime.
Finally and surprisingly, it was euphoria. I still do not think I believe the Caps won the game but they did and trust me, I keep checking and watching Chimera’s goal to make sure it still counts.
Jason Chimera was a role player that stepped up in a big-time game, especially with Mike Knuble out injured. However, no role player was bigger than Washington's 20-year-old rookie center, Marcus Johansson. For a night, Johansson became the 2011 version of John Druce.
Johanssn did what the NHL playoff commercial said we could expect in this year's postseason, he made history.
Johansson scored the first two goals of his playoff career and aside from Chimera's goal, the two biggest goals of the Capitals' season.
There was a great game through all of this as the Capitals and Rangers continued to give both fan bases a very entertaining series. A series that once again saw neither team score in the first period.
For the fourth time in as many games in this series, the Caps and Rangers played a scoreless opening 20 minutes. During the regular season, the Capitals never went as many as three straight games with a scoreless first period by both teams.
The game ended on a fluky goal but also started with one 5:24 into the middle stanza. Just like the overtime goal by Chimera, this was a fluky goal that was earned.
The Rangers outworked the Caps behind their own net as John Carlson stood in front watching. In fact, Carlson stood around and watched all three Ranger goals. Carlson played as poor of a second period as I think I have ever seen a Caps defenseman play in their history.
The fluky play started when Artem Anisimov grabbed a loose puck from behind the net and flung it toward the crease. It deflected off the leg of Capitals forward Matt Hendricks and behind Caps starter Michael Neuvirth to give the Rangers the lead.
How big is the first goal of a playoff hockey game? Not as big as you may think in this series. The Rangers have scored first in three of the four games.
That statistic never mattered to Washington during the regular season and it does not matter to them in the playoffs. The Caps were 23-19-5 when allowing the first goal this season, which was tops in the NHL.
The Capitals also allowed the Rangers the second and third goals of the game as both came just seven seconds apart. Marian Gaborik scored the first ending a 12-game scoring drought for him.
Gaborik was hiding on the left post and knocked past Neuvirth a beautiful backhand pass from Ruslan Fedotenko to make it 2-0. John Carlson was again standing in front of the net and apparently never saw Gaborik as he stood unmolested waiting on the pass.
The Rangers would not sit back to try to protect their first two-goal lead of the series. That would come after they scored the third goal.
This time John Carlson would have company standing around in front of the net as Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner watched as John Waters a.k.a Brandon Dubinsky slapped home what was sure to be icing on the cake for the Rangers.
Only Jason Chimera chased after the puck and Fedotenko behind the Caps' net. Fedotenko beat Chimera and threw a pass in front that found the Ranges forward who now resembles the famous Baltimore born movie producer with his playoff mustache.
Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau elected not to use his timeout and instead caught up with his team during the TV timeout that came shortly after the third goal.
The almost 19,000 at Madison Square Garden were rocking. They were chanting Bouuu-Dreauuuu and, "Can you hear us.” The chant was inspired after Boudreau made derogatory comments in a radio interview earlier in the week. Boudreau commented about the Garden and how he felt the fans were not as loud as Caps fans back at the Verizon Center.
No one knows for sure who stepped up or what was said during the timeout or in the locker room between the second and third periods—but it must have been magical.
Capitals overtime hero Jason Chimera was asked if Boudreau was breathing fire during the second intermission and replied to reporters, "Not really —he was pretty calm and said let's build momentum,"
Chimera said on NHL.com. "It is a long series and let's just play our game. We said it again and again —'We've got the horsepower to do it. Let's just get one and get rolling.'"
"In between periods, we never gave up," said Boudreau in the same article. The coach used San Jose's four-goal comeback win against the Kings in LA on Tuesday night as proof not to give up on the game.
Boudreau finished by saying,"You get one and you never know. When we got both goals really quickly, I thought we believed we were really in it."
The one goal the Caps needed, would come the same way as most of their other goals during the series, through hard work in front of the net. Alexander Semin, who had a fabulous Game 1, disappeared in Game 2 and Game 3. Then he reappeared in Game 4 scoring the ever important first goal for Washington.
The Rangers seemed to drop into a prevent defense and just like in football, the hockey prevent also prevents you from winning.
Just as the Rangers had done to Washington in the second period, the Capitals scored almost immediately when rookie Marcus Johansson tipped home a Brooks Laich shot just 57 seconds after Semin's goal.
The right place at the right time led to the rookie's first ever career playoff goal. Johansson was not in awe of himself as he placed himself right back in front Lundqvist a few shifts later and had John Carlson's shot from the point deflect off his body for his second career playoff goal in less than nine minutes.
If the Washington Capitals did not know the way to beat King Henrik was to get into his face before Game 4, they know now. The Capitals had scored nine goals in the series up to this point and seven of them came from within five feet of the Rangers goalie.
Everything in this series has been earned and momentum has been no different. The Capitals had it headed to overtime.
The Rangers came out tired in both overtimes. The Blueshirts were emotionally and physically spent. The Capitals, like sharks smelling blood, knew it and skated the Rangers hard up and down the ice.
They forced New York to chase and you could see the Rangers were dead on their skates. New York had trouble keeping pucks in their zone, getting off the ice for line changes and they stopped putting their stick into Washington's passing lanes as they did throughout much of the game.
Only Henrik Lundqvist, who battled through bouts with leg cramps and made 49 saves kept the game from ending in the first overtime.
The Capitals had them back on their heels but after Alex Ovechkin missed a breakaway attempt in first overtime, even the most optimistic Caps fans had to start wondering. The flashbacks had to start.
I thought back to the 1987 Easter Eve Game 7 contest in which the Capitals outshot the Isles 73-54 but lost on a fluke shot by Pat Lafontaine from the blue line at 2:00 am in the fourth overtime.
There was something different about this game. Alex Ovechkin stated before the playoffs that people were going to see how mature the Capitals had become as a team. People were going to see a different team in the playoffs.
The Caps did not get down following the Ovechkin miss and kept pressuring the Rangers. As he has done in every game, Bruce Boudreau again managed his defensemans' ice time to perfection.
Last night the difference in Washington's top five blue liners was just 5:22 in ice time. The Ranges had a difference of 19:25 spread between their top five defenseman.
The Rangers top ice time defenseman was Dan Girardi who played almost 40 minutes. Washington's top iceman was John Carlson with almost 35 minutes.
Carlson rebounded to play a great game in the final period and overtime but the difference in ice time between the teams was significant. If you compare that to an average shift and factor in overtime, Carlson and several other Caps defenseman played seven or eight shifts less than Girardi and Marc Staal.
The Caps continued to press the Rangers in the second overtime. The Rangers had their chances and Caps rookie netminder Michael Neuvirth made his share of game-saving stops in the extra sessions.
Neuvirth again shut down Marian Gaborik at close range in the first overtime and used his glove to thwart a Dubinsky shot coming down the right wing in the second overtime.
Neuvirth made 13 stops in the overtimes and 36 total for the game.
The Caps continued to skate hard and the Rangers finally made the mental mistake that fatigue causes in games like this.
Chimera and Johansson entered the Rangers zone with a 2-on-2 situation. Johansson carried the puck and dropped it for Chimera who fired a shot towards the Rangers goal. Chimera would say after the game that his shot on goal after entering the zone was simply meant to isolate one defenseman deep.
Chimera's shot never made it that far as it was blocked by defenseman Bryan McCabe. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist lunged forward to glove the loose puck.
As Lundqvist lunged for the loose puck, teammate Marian Gaborik simultaneously tried to clear it to the corners but instead, the puck hit Chimera, fell to the ice in the crease, and laid there waiting for the tap in Chimera would provide for the game winner.
"It is up there in your life. I don't know —it is next to maybe getting married and having kids as the best thing that has happened to me," Chimera said. "I should say besides getting married. It is nice. Kids are No. 1 but this is pretty up there. It is awesome. There is no better feeling in the world."
As a Caps fan, if I closed my eyes, I could hear what Henrik Lundqvist was saying and picture former Caps goalies Bob Mason, Pete Peters and Olaf Kolzig saying the same thing following a long overtime playoff loss. However, on this night, it was not a Capitals goalie feeling the pain, it was the other team’s netminder and I hate to say it but I smiled as he spoke.
"Right now, it's painful," said Lundqvist to reporters. "It is so frustrating at this point. It’s just unfortunate to have that happen in overtime. A lot of times, that's what happens. A quick play. Before you realize it, it's over."
I hear you Henrik. Believe me I hear you but for once I am glad to hear it coming from the other team’s goalie. Who knows how history would have turned out for Washington if Kelly Hrudey (23 years ago) or Ken Wregget (15 years ago) had spoken those same words Henrik Lundqvist did following last night's game.
I do know this, the Capitals lead an eighth seed for the second time in as many seasons by a 3-1 series margin. OK Mr. Ovechkin, it is time, it is time to show all of us just how mature this Caps team really is and how different a playoff team your boys are this season.
For the sake of the cardiac units all over the DC area (and one in Melbourne Florida) I hope Ovie is right. We will find out on Saturday as the Caps seek to close out a series they lead 3-1 for the fifth time in franchise history.
The Capitals are 4-4 in a playoff series when they lead it 3-1. Here is hoping this team has matured. Please finish them off on Saturday before we have to write about another must win game in the playoffs for the Capitals.
Wasn't it great to finally win that long overtime playoff game? The win may not erase all of the demons from the history of the Capitals playoff pasts—but it's a start.