Joe Beninati's Blog: Amazing

Joe Beninati's Blog: Amazing
April 21, 2011, 5:18 am
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Thursday, April 21, 2011 1:31 a.m.


By Joe Beninati

How in heavens name do you top that? When it looked all but certain the Caps had squandered their two-game to none series lead against the Rangers, they pulled the ultimate rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick to topple New York, 4-3 in double overtime. It has to be one of the most thrilling playoff comebacks Caps fans have ever seen.

Bruce Boudreau had the Madison Square Garden crown going bonkers before and after the opening face-off. His incendiary comments about the building being rundown and the fans not measuring up to Verizon Centers volume level set the stage for a raucous night.

Ranger fans brought many unflattering signs and sang several unkind cheers to let the Coach know this night would night be easy for him.

For the 4th straight game neither team would dent the twine in the opening period. Michal Neuvirth and Henrik Lundqvist both were on good behavior in goal.

Nicklas Backstrom told me earlier today that these two rivals would play it conservatively in the opening period, that they would both be patient, and then they would look to capitalize in the second and third frame. He couldnt have been more right with that prediction.

Sensing this game would be a significant stepping stone for his young team, Rangers boss John Tortorella had to be thrilled with the middle period.

Artem Anisimov is a very fluid skater, but it wasnt his legs that helped deliver the first goal of the game. It was a bank shot from below the goal-line that squirted past Neuvirth to give the host team the lead.

You could see the Capitals sag a bit after falling behind. While they were not testing Lundqvist much, the Rangers stepped on the gas and built a big lead.

After a long absence from the scoresheet, Marian Gaborik was set up beautifully by Ruslan Fedotenko for an easy slam-dunk. But Fedotenko was far from finished. Right off the following face-off he found Brandon Dubinsky working through the slot for another New York goal, only seven seconds after Gaborik hit pay-dirt. Unfortunately for Washington it set a franchise record for fastest two goals allowed in a playoff game.

The Rangers were absolutely perfect in the regular season when leading after two periods, 29-0-0. Having a 3-0 advantage would have led anyone to believe the series was destined to head back to DC tied at two games apiece.well, not so fast!

The Capitals began an amazing rally with a strong push right from the start of the 3rd frame. The Rangers were back on their heels and never recovered. Ryan McDonagh gift-wrapped a goal for Alex Semin to ignite the rally. Semin intercepted the rookies pass, drove powerfully to the net and then had enough persistence to nudge the puck across the goal line to make it 3-1.

Less than a minute later Marcus Johansson would chip in a centering pass from Brooks Laich to scare Rangers fans even more. When Johansson had a John Carlson blast carom off him and past a stunned Lunqvist with 8 minutes to go in regulation, the Caps had made the unimaginable possible.

It would take over 32 minutes of overtime to settle the score. Each team had power-play chances in extra time. Each team agonized over the delay of game (NY) and too many men on the ice (WSH) penalties which dropped them into so much trouble. Alex Ovechkin had a clear-cut breakaway in the first overtime only to be stymied by Lundqvists cat quick catching glove.

If you watched carefully you could see the long night was wearing the teams down. Ranger defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have been so strong in this series, but their legs were wobbling the longer the game went. And Jason Chimeras skating legs kept on churning.

Chimera had the most zip of anyone on the ice in the extra time. One bad bounce foiled New York. After the puck managed to worm past Lundqvist, Chimera was standing no farther than a foot from the goal-line for a tap-in that sent Washington home with a chance to clinch the series Saturday. Amazing!!

I wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to read these postgame summaries throughout the season, and a big note of appreciation to the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern for their generous sponsorship all year long.

If you are in the DC area on Friday, April 22nd, please stop by the Tavern and join me around 7:00 pm. We can watch some hockey together, talk about the Caps, and enjoy some good food and drink!