Nail-biting, heart-pounding hockey.
And the Capitals relished it.
The Capitals and Rangers fought long and hard, literally, Saturday afternoon, culminating in an overtime that saw Mike Green make the only successful shot past either team’s goalie all game.
For those watching, the pressure hovered like a 7th man above the arena as the third period progressed and the scoreboard remanined 0-0. Exciting, intense, cliffhanger would be the vocabulary that comes to mind—fun, not so much.
But that’s what separates the players from the spectators.
“It’s fun. It’s playoff hockey. That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Marcus Johansson said of the game.
“It’s exciting,” Troy Brouwer said afterwards of the high-pressure situation the two teams found themselves in during the third. with the caveat that guys have to make sure they don’t let the situation overwhelm them.
In fact, Brouwer said the “older guys”—he didn’t specify who that might be—did a great job Saturday of making sure everyone was even-keeled and got a healthy dose of positive reinforcement.
“Just talking, making sure everyone’s communicating, making sure guys are getting pats on the back, not getting on each other if there’s a mistake, because the last thing we need is guys getting frustrated with each other,” Brouwer elaborated on how the “older guys” accomplished this.
He and Johansson weren’t the only ones eating the pressure for breakfast.
“It feels great,” Eric Fehr said when asked about that element in the third period. “Those are the games you want to be a part of. That’s the playoff hockey you expect. We were prepared for it, and we played our system to a “T”, and we played it well.”
And oh, boy, was it playoff hockey. The only object the puck had trouble finding during the 60+minutes was the net. Both teams always seemed to be right near the puck—the Rangers usually blocking it, the Caps usually passing it.
Fehr, for one, was impressed with that part of the Rangers’ game.
“They block so well, it’s like they got six goalies out there,” said Fehr, who himself had a blocked shot that garnered him a postgame shoutout from Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
It’s going to take not only figuring out Henrik Lundqvist, but figuring out how to beat the Rangers’ shot-blocking acumen consistently, for the Capitals to keep getting on the board in this series.
Neither Lundqvist nor Holtby were short of spectacular, though it’s doubtful either would characterize their performance that way. For fans of goaltending, it was a treat to watch both goalies manage the puck with ease.
“No,” Holtby said when asked if this was the most comfortable he’s ever felt in net. “Tonight, it wasn’t a very straining game on a goalie. … I felt comfortable out there, but there’s still room for improvement.”
Special teams came through again for Washington in overtime, with Green’s goal coming on the power play. The Capitals’ marked improvement in the penalty killing unit was something we’ve been talking about at OFB for the past two weeks, and helped the team fend off the first penalty of overtime.
Just one request: may we never see another puck over the glass penalty from either team again.