“We are louder!” was the popular chant during Game 5 at the Verizon Center -- an answer to the Madison Square Garden chant of “Can you hear us!” that followed Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau’s remarks that New York’s hockey fans weren‘t very loud. All that really matters, though, is that the Caps are better.
The New York Rangers came out swinging, skating like they’d put Wednesday’s blown three-goal lead out of mind and were focused on extending their season. But that energy was sapped following the first penalty -- tripping called on Bryan McCabe. The Rangers suddenly looked more interested in swinging than scoring.
Early in that first Capitals power play, Alexander Ovechkin passed up a shot in favor of a pass to Mike Green, who shot and then scored on the rebound, sliding the puck along the goal line and in to defenseman Dan Girardi, off whom it trickled into the goal. A couple of Rangers promptly took shots at Caps forward Brooks Laich in the post-goal scrum, and realizing they were celebrating alone, Green and Ovechkin heeled around and joined the hockey party that broke out behind the net, a party that resulted in two roughing penalties per side and a bench minor for abuse of an official for the Rangers.
The Rangers were lucky to get out of that period down 1-0, as the majority of the action the rest of the way took place in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Not only were the fans rocking the red in the stands, the red sweaters were swarming around Lundqvist. The Capitals outshot the Rangers 13-6 in the period.
The only thing that went the Rangers’ way the rest of the period was the Capitals losing Green when he blocked a shot with his dome, knocking at least two screws out of his helmet. No minor concern there, considering the concussion that kept Green off the ice since late February until this season. But this wasn’t a case of New York headhunting, as Boudreau had accused earlier in the season. It was a case of Green sacrificing himself for the team. Green’s goal was only his first in the first round, but he had been a consistent assist-per-game contributor to the Caps’ offense this series, and the improved defense this season by Green, who earned celebrity on the ice as one of the league’s best offensive defenseman, perfectly demonstrates the selfless play this year’s Capitals have adopted in hopes of avoiding past years' postseason letdowns.
At least the Caps escaped the first round this year.
The second period wasn’t so one-sided, but when the Capitals took a 2-0 lead with 12:56 to play on a classic Ovechkin mini-break -- a step ahead of the defense, he used a slick crossover for a backhanded score -- it marked the team’s sixth straight goal since falling behind 3-0 in Game 4, and the end of the Rangers’ season seemed palpable.
The Caps rested on their much talked about improved defense -- they only surrendered two goals in three home games -- and strong tending from goalie Michal Neuvirth (26 saves) and added a late goal on a Marcus Johansson to Alexander Semin 2-on-1, Semin's third goal of the series. After pulling the goalie, the Rangers managed to break their scoring drought with just more than half a minute to play for a 3-1 final.
Green did return to the Capitals bench in the second period but did not play again. It’s unclear if that was because of the shot to the head or the fact that the Rangers didn’t threaten the Caps the rest of the way. Green did skate a bit during a timeout, Dan Hellie reported.
This was the first time in 13 years that the Caps have taken a playoff series in five games, Hellie reported. It was also the first time the Caps won a postseason series under Boudreau that didn't go the full seven games.