There were two moments in the third period of tonight's heart-pounding 2-1 New York Rangers' victory over the Washington Capitals that symbolized everything that's working for the Blueshirts in their first-round upset bid, which now stands at a 3-1 series lead.
There was a penalty kill -- after the first of two Sean Avery penalties -- in which the puck remained in the Rangers' zone for the full two minutes; and the Capitals not only failed to convert, but saw an exhausted Alexander Semin take a penalty. Making a mistake, and working their asses off to correct it, has been a hallmark of New York Rangers hockey in this series.
Then there was the absolutely laser Alexander Ovechkin sent into Henrik Lundqvist's glove, after the Capitals superstar had already beaten King Henrik with a blistering wrister into the top of the cage earlier in the period. Lundqvist robbed Ovechkin for one of his 38 saves. Like the rest of the series, Ovechkin got his chance; like every shot except one, Lundqvist held the last line of defense.
The Rangers defense won again. They beat the Capitals on faceoffs, they beat the Capitals on special teams (Washington was 0-for-6 on the power play) and they managed to flat out disrupt the Capitals in the offensive zone. Washington has gone to the net hard in exactly one game in this series, and not coincidentally it's the team's lone victory. Whether it's the Rangers positioning (Coach Bruce Boudreau's theory) or the Capitals' lack of tenacity, it happened again tonight.
Is the series over? Not by a long shot. The Rangers have three one-goal victories, two of which were aided by softies against Jose Theodore and a turnover by Simeon Varlamov tonight on Chris Drury's goal. A power-play goal surrendered, a bounce the other way, a clang off the goalpost or crossbar that becomes a goal instead ... the margin is too razor-thin to call this one yet, not matter the odds against Washington.
A few more thoughts on this one, and the Boston Bruins' sweep, after the jump.
Some random thoughts ...
• Avery took two bad penalties in the third: a smack to the face of Milan Jurcina on an icing call and a high-stick after the whistle late in the period. Without being at the arena, this is a tough call ... but watching the Capitals broadcast, it almost appeared Avery's first penalty was called so long after the play that it may have been a Jumbotron penalty. In any event, the calls for Avery's role to change or for his benching will likely increase after that third period.
• On the eve of what should be a Norris Trophy nomination, the marginalization of Mike Green in this series by the Rangers is remarkable. After two assists in Game 1, he's gone three without a point and skated to a minus-3 for the series.
• Boudreau on offensive support for Ovechkin against Lundqvist, after the game: "Somebody's going to have to score on this guy."
• Meanwhile, in Montreal ... welcome back, Mr. Lucic. Do you know Mr. Komisarek?
• Mike Komisarek would later get a major and a gamer for high-sticking Milan Lucic, and Stanley Cup of Chowder has a clip in its review of the game.
• The Boston Bruins win and sweep the series, 4-1, in a game that gracefully degenerated into a Montreal Canadiens fan protest: booing the home team, taunting Carey Price and chanting "Carbo, Carbo" near the end of the game. What a humbling way to end a truly repulsive season.