Monday, May 14, 2012

Rangers beat Caps - advance to round 3

Can you believe it? Once again the Rangers came up huge in game seven - this time defeating their nemesis team - the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin - 2-1 to catapult themselves into round three.

In the last 4 years the Rangers have made the playoffs 3 times - and Washington had sent them home twice. The last 4 times the Caps faced elimination - they had beaten us 4 straight times.

Could this years Rangers - a One seed - finally send the Capitals home?


It took coaching - grit - goaltending - defense - and conditioning - but yes - the Rangers did it.

John Tortorella's team had played all season to capture the Atlantic division crown - giving them a home game seven and the right, as the home team, to match lines. It paid off quickly as Tortorella sent the Gaborik - Richards - Hagelin line out in the game's first AND third shifts - catching the Caps by surprise. The third shift - 90 seconds in - yielded the all-important first goal for the Rangers.

The speedster rookie Hagelin beat everyone to the puck - crossed behind the goal and made a perfect feed to Brad Richards. With Gaborik creating traffic at the net - Richard's launched a slapper that beat the screened Holtby and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 1:32 of the first. Richards has been everything we had hoped and more this season - a sniper who can find the net when others can't.

And in game 7 Richards gavew them a lead they never relinquished.

The Capitals threw everything they had at the Rangers in the second period - dominating through long stretches - keeping Del Zotto stuck on the ice for more than 3 minutes of game time - and
pinning the Rangers in their own zone for an 80 second eternity when we simply could not clear the puck.

The Rangers wall of defense - from the forwards to defensemen to Lundqvist - withstood the barrage - and the wall held.

And so - on to the third - with the Rangers clinging for life to their one goal lead. Right around the ten minute mark - the Rangers struck again.

Marian Gaborik - the hero of the 6 period OT winner in game 3 - took on three Capitals all by himself as he stickhandled into the Washington zone and got a shot off at Holtby. A Capitals stick was able to block it - but with all the attention draw to Gabby - no one had covered Michael Del Zotto who had crashed the zone. MDZ had the puck bounce right to him - snapped off a shot in traffic - and Holtby failed to grab it.

2-0 Rangers. With 10 minutes to go.

But you know our Blueshirts. The easy way? Never.

The two goal lead - a rarity in this series - lasted all of 38 seconds before a screened Henrik Lundqvist fail to find a desperate Hamrlik shot and we were back to a one goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

The Rangers then had an apparent goal waved off (don't even get me started on the referee concept of "intent to blow" the whistle). And 2-1 it remained.

But - despite the Capitals goal - the real story of period three was how our Rangers rose up and clamped the lid on a potent Capitals team. In the end they allowed only 4 shots on goal in the third. That's just 4 shots from a Capital's team with their season on the line.

Blocking shots and pushing the puck forward - the Rangers kept the pill away from the Caps - and smothered many Capital attempts when they did put pressure on our defense.

So it came down that Hank needed just three saves in the 3rd to nail down the win. And a focused - dominant - Lunndqvist made those saves. As the final horn sounded Hank was exultant - having reached the Eastern finals for the first time in his career.

You have to feel for Holtby. He was every bit Hank's equal in the Capital's net - and quite nearly stole this series from us all by himself.

But the Rangers did win - taking all 7 gmes to do it - and now look forward to round three against the Devils.

8 wins until the cup. Here we go!

Can you believe it?

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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