Going into this series with the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals knew there would be tight games against John Tortorella’s stingy shot-blocking team. Getting quality shots through defensemen and past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would be key to the Capitals success.
Saturday afternoon, the Capitals showed they were up to the challenge. After no score during three periods of play, all it took was a cool-headed Mike Green shot on the power play to win it, 1-0, for the Capitals, putting them 2-0 in the best-of-seven series over the Rangers. The goal was assisted by Mike Ribiero and Alex Ovechkin.
Green made sure to give credit to Ribiero for the pass. “He does such a great job drawing guys to him and obviously they are on Ovi, so I just happened to be open and my goal to get it by the first guy and try to hit the net,” he said. It was his eighth career playoff goal, and his eighteenth career game-winning goal and the first overtime game-winning goal of his career.
“We talk about this a lot,” said coach Adam Oates on Green’s ability to score in high-pressure situations. “It’s a reason why I don’t want Mike to try too hard to be a scorer during the game because we need him to have the poise back there at a key moment when it’s a big power play, place is going crazy, there’s electricity. You need guys out there who are calm. That’s one of his gifts.”
Defenseman Karl Alzner agreed. “He’s a big-time player, he handles the pressure well. He’s calm all the time with the puck in regulation, so when it gets to overtime and guys start to get the shakes a little bit, he’s still calm Mike Green,” he said.
“He’s able to find those holes, it really is amazing, I wish I could do it like him. We call him Casual Mike every now and then,” Alzner quipped.
Special teams have arguably been the deciding factor thus far in this series. The Capitals’ penalty kill has been perfect, while the Rangers’ power play has been sputtering. Out of seven total Rangers power plays, the Capitals have allowed exactly zero Rangers goals. Conversely, the Capitals’ power play is firing on all cylinders. They have two goals on seven power play opportunities.
The Rangers had three power plays, not including two four-on-four situations, but the Capitals penalty kill picked a great time to click, only allowing two shots on the three Rangers man-advantages.
“We’ve been working hard and working together,” said center Nicklas Backstrom when asked about what’s working on the penalty kill. “That’s the biggest key, I think. They have really good players on their team, so you’ve got to make sure to take away all those options.”
The power play that led to Green’s game-winning goal was earned after a delay-of-game penalty was called on New York’s Ryan McDonagh – a situation that Karl Alzner was faced with earlier in the game. Alzner attempted to tip the puck out of the Capitals’ zone, but it bounced up over the glass. After the initial no-call on the play, the officiating staff called into Toronto to get clarification of the rule, and it was determined that the call made on the ice was correct. It is only a penalty if the puck is deliberately shot out of the zone and ends up over the glass.
Goaltender Braden Holtby recorded his first career playoff shutout, stopping all 24 shots that came his way. Holtby downplayed his accomplishment, acknowledging that a personal milestone takes less precedence than a team victory. “A shutout’s one thing, but a win is the big thing,” he said.
The Capitals will take on the Rangers in Game 3 of the series at Madison Square Garden on Monday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m.
Katie Brown is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Virginia and Maryland, currently resides in Arlington, VA, and developed a love for the sport of hockey as a youngster while watching her brothers play. She combined her enthusiasm for the game with her love of writing after college. Katie has covered the Capitals as credentialed media for two seasons for several area blogs before joining the DSP staff. Katie works at a nonprofit organization by day but the rest of her time is devoted to watching, writing, and talking about hockey and perfecting her mean one-timer. You can follow Katie on Twitter@katie_brown47.