Former Ranger defenseman Tom Poti led the Washington Capitals to a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers, who were playing without their coach, to tie the teams' first-round NHL Playoff series at three games apiece. Sean Avery returned to the line-up to help the Rangers avoid getting another doughnut on the scoreboard.
The Rangers played poorly in their last game, in which they were without Avery, but had a hard-hitting match with him in Madison Square Garden. It ended up that the Rangers missed their enforcer, Colton Orr (a healthy scratch), more than coach John Tortorella.
The Capitals enforcer, Donald Brashear, knocked out Blair Betts halfway through the first period. Brashear was also involved in an incident in the pregame warm-up with Orr that went unpenalized but Rangers fans felt was worthy of a suspension. The elbow thrown was seen by many as malicious.
The Rangers failed to make good on their second chance to end the series, though this time they were on home ice.
Sean Avery was scratched by Tortorella for Game Five after a rash of penalties, and the Rangers lost, 4-0. Then, Tortorella missed the game at Madison Square Garden as the National Hockey League suspended him for one game for his actions in the last contest in Washington.
Tortorella's punishment was for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a fan in the third period of Game Five.
Tortorella was replaced Sunday by Rangers assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld, who happens to be the last NHL coach suspended for a game in the Playoffs.
Schoenfeld earned his temporary ban the 1988 postseason when he called referee Don Koharski a "fat pig." He famously yelled, "Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!"
The numbers in this best-of-seven series are bizarre, as going into Game six, the Caps had outscored the Rangers 12-7 and outshot them 170-119, but N.Y. still led this series 3-2.
Throughout Playoff history, forcing a seventh game by winning on the road has been one of the most difficult things for even legendary teams to do.
Nik Antropov came out gunning on the first shift. Both teams delivered several big hits at the start of the game, though the Rangers led that statistic.
Avery played on a line with Scott Gomez and Nik Zherdev and got a hit on his first shift of the game.
Still, the Capitals took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the game when Milan Jurcina got his first career Playoff goal. Jurcina's shot from the blueline beat Henrik Lundqvist in traffic.
Then, one minute after the Capitals goal, the Rangers scored on the power play. Avery battled for the puck, got it back to the point to Wade Redden, whose shot was tipped in by Scott Gomez.
Both Avery and Redden were credited with assists. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin flattened Rangers captain Chris Drury away from the play with no penalty, and Donald Brashear blindsided Blair Betts with no penalty shortly after that.
The Rangers' radio announcers called it horrible, a travesty, and a joke, saying "the officiating is awful" and "he almost killed him." They also mentioned that the Rangers did not dress Orr for the game.
Brashear landed a high and hard hit on the Rangers' power-play expert, and Betts was helped off the ice and did not return to the game. The elbow to the head went unnoticed, but Paul Mara was called for holding shortly after, and the Capitals scored on the power play.
Mike Green got his first goal of the series to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead with six minutes left in the first period. Then the Caps got another goal, this on a three-on-one break, at the end of the period as Tom Poti scored.
At the end of the first, the Rangers had outshot the Capitals for a change, 11 to 9, and both teams had a dozen hits.
Brashear got called for holding at the start of the second period. Avery and Zherdev gave themselves two good scoring chances on Simeon Varlamov, but Washington got the puck, raced up the ice, and Viktor Kozlov scored on Lundqvist to make it 4-1.
Later, Brandon Dubinsky got sent off with five minutes left in the second. He got two minutes for boarding, two for roughing, and a ten-minute misconduct. Ovechkin then scored on the power play with a tip-in of a shot by Poti.
The second period ended with the Capitals leading 5-1. They moved ahead in shots on net as well for a 20-16 lead. The Rangers, however, had 30 hits to the Capitals' 20.
Stephen Valiquette replaced Henrik Lundqvist in net for the Rangers for the third period.
Avery got a good shot on net to start the final 20 minutes, and Ryan Callahan scored a couple of minutes later after the Capitals took two penalties and the Rangers were playing five-on-three.
Derek Morris and Gomez got the assists on the Callahan goal.
Ovechkin and Callahan battled back and forth in the third period. Ovechkin got his first penalty of the series when he was given two minutes for elbowing with five minutes left in the game.
Eventually the Rangers got their second five-on-three when Boyd Gordon hit Callahan from behind and got two minutes for cross-checking.
Mark Staal got one more goal for the Rangers with six seconds left in the game.
The Rangers won the third period, and they outshot the Capitals for the first time in this series by posting 32 to 22 in this game. They also had 35 hits, while the Caps had 27.
Still, N.Y. will have to travel to Washington for their first Game Seven in fifteen years.