Wednesday Night Hockey
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Washington Capitals (2-1)
NEW YORK RANGERS (1-2)
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
33rd Street and 7th Avenue
NEW YORK RANGERS ~ The Blueshirts Strike Back!
The first period action was fast, furious and frightful. The first twenty minutes, like the previous two games, was played with a lot of energy; hard hits; fortitude and pride. But for the Rangers, the period remained scoreless like five of the six regulation time periods prior to this game.
Washington shot themselves in the foot by putting the Rangers on the power play for eight minutes of the second period. For the Rangers part, they were one for seven on the man-advantage the entire game. But this was one goal too many for Washington's tastes. One goal for the Rangers on special teams is an accomplishment. This goal put the Rangers up 1-0. But for the Washington Capitals, eight minutes of killing penalties denied their offense precious minutes they could have better spent attacking the Rangers zone and specifically, Henrik Lundqvist. And there-in lies the reason the Rangers out-shot the Capitals over the course of the game.
Credit must go to the Rangers for putting themselves in a position to draw penalties by dictating the tempo of play. The Rangers twice had two-man advantages in this game but could not convert. Their lone power play goal came when Eric Christensen scored at 5:30 of the second period making Washington pay for John Carlson's cross-check of Marc Staal. Christensen's goal came from a bad angle shot taken from the bottom of the circle to the goalie's left.
Washington then mounted a furious siege against King Lundqvist. The Rangers goalie came way out of his net at one point, sprawled out, and was spinning in circles before he recovered and re-manned his post.
Brandon Dubinsky was a lead catalyst all game and had been taking a physical pounding thus far; giving and taking the body. He took a puck square in the back to block a shot on goal that no doubt hurt like all hell.
When they weren't killing penalties, the Capitals were relentless. At 2:30 of the second period, Henrik Lundqvist saved the Rangers' lead by denying a Jason Arnott stuff attempt off an Ovechkin pass. Then, a series of offensive flurries finally paid off for Washington when Alex Ovechkin scored on a tip-in with 0.53 left in the period to tie the game at one.
But the Blueshirts weren't through. The Rangers thought they went ahead yet again; this time - with no time left. The Rangers ended the period in a frenzy inside Neuvirth's crease as multiple Blueshirts stabbed at a loose puck. The puck wound up trickling over the goal line, but not before Toronto's Board of Review ruled there was 0:00 time left on the clock.
So off to the locker rooms they went; tied at one apiece after two periods.
The first half of the third period was not unlike the first two periods of this game; frantic. At the 14:27 mark, Ruslan Fedotenko skated in to thwart a two-on-one chance with a diving save in front of Lundqvist and help preserve the one/one tie.
With twelve minutes left in regulation, the Gaborik-Dubinsky-Prospal line was on shift. Marian Gaborik camped himself in front of Neuvirth after Dubinsky gained the offensive zone. Gaborik kept his ground in front of Neuvirth fighting off bodies and cross-checks as Dubinsky took a shot on goal. Brandon Dubinsky then made another play to keep the puck in the offensive zone this time up along the far boards. All based on the hard work of Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik in front, Vinny Prospal was able to find a Marc Staal rebound and got it past Neuvirth giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 11:59 left in the period.
When action returned his way with 11:29 left in regulation, Henrik Lundqvist found himself diving on his belly again to make another crucial save for the Blueshirts. Then starting at 10:47, the Rangers would fail to cash in on another power play chance after Nick Backstrom tripped Brandon Prust. After Washington's penalty kill with 8:45 left in regulation, Henrik Lundqvist made a stop and held on to the puck to stop play. Two minutes later, Henrik Lunqvist saved the day yet again for the Rangers having endured a savage shift by Washington. The King was playing at a phenomenal level.
A delayed penalty was called against the Rangers when Marian Gaborik got called for cross-checking Nick Backstrom with 6:22 left in regulation. Washington's first attempt to gain the zone was cleared. Their second rush was kept in and after one shot, Chris Drury cleared the zone. Washington's third time in the zone gave the Rangers trouble. Dan Girardi was drawn too far away from his defensive post by a puck handling Alex Ovechkin, who then ripped a shot through the vacated lane left by Girardi. The rebound went right to Mike Knuble who banged it home for a score; tying the game with only 5:12 remaining in regulation time.
After the Rangers gave Michal Neuvirth a face full of snow, both teams incurred off-setting penalties when Brian Boyle and John Carlson each got whistled for roughing at the 16:45 mark. With just over three minutes left, they'd have to play four-on-four Hockey.
At 1:39 of the Third Period, this officially became a series as the Blueshirts lit the lamp on Broadway. Brandon Dubinsky Shined Bright As The Star Of The Show.
As the Rangers possessed the puck in the corner with one minute and twenty-five seconds into the four-on-four, Brandon Dubinsky bullied his way towards net. He got quick hold of a puck that flipped up and pin-balled into the net for his first goal of the playoffs and more importantly, a late 3-2 Rangers' lead.
At 1:08 the Rangers cleared Washington from their defensive zone. Then Washington finally pulled goalie Neuvirth for a sixth skater. With 0.35 left they got off a shot on goal. The Rangers needed to clear Washington from the defensive zone twice more before regulation time finally expired.
Sunday, prior to Game Three I said this:
"I say it's high-time Brandon Dubinsky find his place among the Blueshirts' reliables. He is skating in a holding pattern. He can either cement his future in a Blueshirt jersey by stepping up for this team as one of the core players of this organization, or, fade away down the stretch and effectively play his way off-Broadway. Because whether you like it or not, Brandon Dubinsky is playing to save his future as a Ranger. Ask any player (like..eh hem, Chris Drury) who parlayed a good playoff into a nifty contract what it's like to come through for your team and get paid for it after the fact. Brandon may never find that out unless he adds a little more to his game than just his cuteness. He's been tougher this season and has done well to stick up for his team-mates. He's getting better at winning face-offs with more frequency. He's a beloved blue-collar Ranger. But there comes a time that defines a young man's career if there is star quality in him. There's a moment they go from being a young, gamely neophyte, to taking a lead role amongst men. To the left of Dubinsky are aging vets far removed from more glorious days. To the right of him are players even younger than Brandon, who all have just a little over two hours of playoff experience.
In the absence of his Brother in Grind; Ryan Callahan - Brandon Dubinsky is now charged (by me I guess) with making the future of the New York Rangers happen now. Game three and four are screaming his name. Ranger fans (uh..I guess me) WANT him to answer the call. But will he? We aren't asking him to become Rod Gilbert over night. We just need a hero for game three named Brandon Dubinsky.
He's been here. He's inter-woven into Coach Tort's tapestry of core players. Brandon Dubinsky identifies the Rangers as much as any player we can mention. He is consistently among the team leaders in ice time. By default, he is the team's regular season leading scorer. Before Callahan went down, Dubinsky was a third of the Rangers best forward line.
He IS a Ranger.
But at 3:00pm Saturday afternoon, the Rangers need him to be The Man."
Yea..., He's the brightest star on Broadway right now! Please allow me to iron your Blueshirt for you Mr. Dubinsky. He was a most physical factor the entire game. An assist; a goal; and that 'stache man! - They were all glorious. Thanks for a great performance.
The A-P-B Line: Attention All Capitals...!
The forward line comprised of Sean Avery; Brandon Prust; and Brian Boyle has been outstanding. The three have flourished together ever since Coach Torts reinstated Avery and joined him with the destructive duo of Prust and Boyle. Now they are a Triad of Skating Terrors. They've been indefatigable; disruptive; and devastating together. This line has been tremendous on the fore-check; finishing all their checks; and winning battles for the puck. They've been bumping bodies and crashing the net with reckless abandon and frequency. They've been agitators and instigators. So much of the Rangers' energy and momentum has been generated right here; with this line combo I'm naming.....
The A-P-B Line!
SEAN AVERY: A Blueshirt One Man Gang.
I want to take you inside one sequence during an A-P-B shift. It's the strongest case in support of Sean Avery's ice-time to date. It backs Avery fan's good sentiment for the embattled winger in defiance of Coach Torts' not so well hidden feeling of dislike for the forward.
I ask you to try and remember a shift just before Vinny Prospal's third period goal when the score was still tied at one. The Rangers had possession in Washington's end. Avery skated to the net as a battle for the puck along the back board ensued. Sean Avery skated around net and joined the fight, dug in, and won two pucks. Each time and in rapid succession, he fed Brandon Prust, who was positioned at the bottom of the left circle, with two close-quarter, deadly accurate passes. Each time Prust gave it back to Avery. Avery slammed the second pass right back at Prust insisting he finish a great set-up. He then skated to the front of the net and then retreat behind again to join a cycle until the Rangers lost the zone.
His speed, tenacity, passing skill, ability to dig out pucks, cycle, take the body and still crash net were all on display in a what was a twelve second burst of controlled Hockey fury.
That's Sean Avery!
But he's no fool as neither are the fans and Coach Torts. Continuing forward, we all know Sean Avery needs to be in control of himself. He knows he needs to maintain his poise if he wants to continue getting called upon to help the team. So far, so great.
Game Three Pre-Game; Showtime For Broadway Blueshirts ~ Mike.BTB
Let's Take This To An Uglier Level; Game Two ~ Mike.BTB
NHL Playoffs; Round One ~ Mike.BTB