Marian Gaborik nearly won Game 3 for the New York Rangers in the third overtime, but his shot pinged off the post.
Gaborik didn't make the same mistake on his next shift, as he took a Brad Richards pass from behind the net and buried a quick one-timer five-hole on Braden Holtby for a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. The victory also gives the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Rangers may have won the game with just over five minutes left in the sixth period, but both sides left the ice early Thursday morning bloodied and bruised, sapped of strength and short on time to recover before Game 4 Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center -- a game that can be seen live on NBC4.
That's what happens when a game goes to triple OT in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the eventual series winner often is not who wins that particular game, but whoever can survive the brutal physical effects of such a long, punishing game.
“It’s tough. You invest a lot every night, no matter what; if it’s a 60-minute game or extended into overtime," Caps' winger Matt Hendricks said. "When you extend into overtime you are investing more and more and you are putting everything you’ve got into it. Unfortunately, we didn’t win tonight, but we can’t let that bother us. We just need to get prepared for the next one.”
Sure, Game 3 went for nearly three full OT periods, but it wasn't for lack of effort by those firing pucks on net.
Ryan Callahan started the scoring in the second period when a Michael Del Zotto shot from the left point deflected off of someone in front of Braden Holtby. The puck bounced to Holtby's left, where Callahan fought off a defenseman, spun and fired the puck into an open net.
The lead lasted less than five minutes, as John Carlson tied it up thanks to a good bounce of his own.
Carlson carried the puck into the Rangers' zone but had the puck pokechecked off his stick by Marc Staal. But the puck bounced right back to Carlson's stick. He took one more stride and wristed the biscuit over Henrik Lundqvist's blocker and into the net.
There was no more scoring after that until Gaborik's winner, but the chances were there.
A sampling of the scoring opportunities:
- With five minutes left in the second period, Lundqvist made a big save on a Caps' 3-on-1, then in the same series made another big save on Alex Semin from the left circle and another on Brooks Laich in the crease.
- Five minutes into the first overtime, Troy Brouwer had a chance to win it after Matt Hendricks crushed Ryan McDonagh with a shoulder in the corner. Eventually Hendricks backhanded a pass to Brouwer, who was all by his lonesome in the crease. But Brouwer pushed his shot wide right.
- Then with five minutes left in the first OT, Alex Ovechkin had a glorious chance to send the fans home happy. McDonagh decided to go D-to-D in front of his own net. The pass stunned Anton Stralman, who immediately felt pressure from Ovi and tried to backhand the puck out of the zone. Ovi batted down the attempt and fired the rolling puck on net. He beat a stunned Lundqvist, but the puck clanged off of the right post.
- With just over a minute to go in the first OT and the Rangers on a power play, Holtby made a big save on Michael Del Zotto on a shot from the right circle, and then another on the rebound attempt by Gaborik before finally covering it amidst a scramble in the crease.
- In the second OT, Mike Rupp had a chance to win it but it looked like his shot at an open net hit off of both Dennis Wideman and Brian Boyle, who were tied up in the crease.
- In the third overtime, we already mentioned Gaborik ringing a shot off the pipe on Holtby's glove side. But about a minute later Carlson had a chance at the other end. His shot, however, was blocked by John Mitchell. Off the next faceoff a Dennis Wideman shot from the point was tipped by Jason Chimera off the post and into the corner.
And that was the last chance the Caps had before Gaborik's winner.
“We had our chances," Hendricks said. "We had some really good opportunities; a couple of posts. We just didn’t find the back of the net and they got the last bounce, so it’s what we expected against the Rangers. We expected this tight checking hockey."
Now the Caps must regroup, eat some carbs and clear their heads in order to do it all again in Game 4.