The Caps came into a matinee game 6 at Madison Square Gardens knowing that a win would send them straight to the Eastern Conference Semi Finals, where a series with either the Boston Bruins or the Toronto Maple Leafs would await them. However, it would not be easy - both the New York and Washington sides had won every one of their home game in the series, meaning that the Caps would have to break the trend to end the series early and send the Blueshirts over to the fairway.
Recap is below the jump:
Both sides came out of the game strong, testing both Holtby and Lundqvist, also throwing some hard hits on each other - some of which were arguably late, particularly Del Zotto's hit on Matty Perrault, who luckily appeared fine after he quickly returned to the game. The Caps soon had their first penalty of the night, after Jack Hillen shoved Ryan Callahan, which was quite frankly a ridiculous call to make - I've personally done much worse in the UK U-18 league and haven't been called. Now I'm not one to whine, it appeared as if the refs were biased towards the Rangers - calling Hillen for roughing yet ignoring Del Zotto's very questionable hit. They overcame the PK despite being strongly tested, but another PK came minutes later after Alzner was sent for delay of game, and then Fehr was sent for elbowing leading to a 44 second 5 on 3, which they dealt with well. The first period ended scoreless, but the game itself was very exciting at this point and could have gone either way. One of the most terrifying moments of the first was when Tom Wilson, playing in just his second NHL game, collapsed with a seemingly bad lower body injury. Turns out it was just a skate problem and everyone had a minor panic attack over nothing. Still, pretty embarrassing for poor Tom.
The second period was a great display of hockey, with high paced offense, stringent defense and some outstanding goaltending from both sides. Unfortunately for the Caps, Brassad's slapshot at almost the half way point of the game was deflected off Oleksy's glove and past Holtby to put the Rangers up one to nothing. Whilst this obviously set the Caps back, they are accustomed to coming back from deficits and I maintained my prediction of a 2-1 Caps victory in OT. What followed the Rangers goal was what was repeatedly described as a 'shooting gallery' around Holtby - pucks were flying towards the net, and all credit to Braden for keeping the Caps in the game, with the score staying 1-0 to the Rangers at the end of the second.
The final frame was good from the start, with Ovechkin smashing Girardi into the boards, shaking him up just a couple of minutes in. Six minutes in, Ward threw a Ranger into the net and was rewarded with to minutes in the penalty box to think about what he'd done. Again though, the Caps managed to kill off the penalty. Then, with six minutes remaining, Mike Green was sent for high sticking, yet the Rangers were yet to even commit a minor - Ian Oland of RMNB summed this up well, saying "How much is Gary paying the refs to get this season to seven games?" - there have been 15 Caps penalties at MSG so far, compared to 5 NYR penalties. Suspicious? In the end, the Caps were unable to grab a goal tonight, and in the end rewarded the Rangers with a fun brawl. The game ended 1-0. Not the best performance from the Caps, but I am confident we can bounce back.
So, it's game 7 at the Verizon Center. Tomorrow night. Whoever wins advances. It doesn't matter what happened in the last six matches, this is a straight knockout match. One things for sure:
I can't wait.