December 4, 2021

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 4 Recap: Burakovsky scores twice, Caps one win from advancing over Rangers

With every clap producing a louder concussive effect than the one prior, and every scream and shout seemingly ricocheting around the arena, the Washington Capitals sapped every ounce of energy from their adoring fans and moved that much closer to doing something very special.

André Burakovsky scored magnificent goals in the second and third periods, and Braden Holtby continued his borderline absurd playoff run as Washington defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. The win gives the Capitals a commanding 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

Near the beginning of the season, head coach Barry Trotz sent Burakovsky to the press box as a healthy scratch, telling the young Swede that he wouldn’t receive a sweater until his demeanor changed and he “cracked a smile.” Indeed, Burakovsky said in his postgame interview that he “wanted to prove that I don’t belong in the stands, that I belong on the ice [the] whole time.”

After Martin St. Louis fed Derick Brassard in the slot, and the latter finished glove-side high past Holtby early in the second period, Burakovsky took the stage. With 3:31 left in the frame, the young Swede took the puck along the boards at the right circle, skated past a couple of lunging New York defenders through the slot and hesitated just long enough, rifling a wrist shot past a beaten Henrik Lundqvist to even the score.

“Just took the puck along the wall there and I saw there was an opening in the middle. Just tried to take the puck through the middle there and saw that [Troy Brouwer] was kind of wide open but I had a great opportunity to shoot … it worked out pretty good,” he said.

The eventual game-winner came just 24 seconds after the second intermission from an outstanding defensive play by Troy Brouwer in the neutral zone. Ryan McDonagh attempted a pass that Brouwer broke up at the center line, and Burakovsky recovered the puck just before it got to the blue line. Staying a step ahead of a chasing McDonagh, the rookie shifted to the backhand, and his shot went in off the far post to send Verizon Center into a frenzy unmatched by almost every event over the past three weeks.

To score his first two Stanley Cup Playoff goals against a childhood hero in Lundqvist, who, along with Burakovsky, grew up in Skåne County in Southern Sweden, made for an even more memorable night for the 20-year-old.

Laughing a bit when faced with the reality of the situation afterward, he said, “Obviously he’s been my favorite goalie for me since I grew up. He’s kind of close to my hometown so I’ve been watching him my whole life. So it’s a very special moment for me to score two goals on Lundqvist in such an important game as this.

“I would say it’s up there for sure,” he responded when asked if it was the best moment of his hockey career.

Holtby had a 28-save performance, and “Holt-by!” chants rang out time and time again throughout the night. But none were louder than after his flashy glove save on a Carl Hagelin penalty shot in the third period — the result of Mike Green hauling down the speedy winger on a clean breakaway. Patience was key for Holtby on the play, as it has been all spring. “I knew he’s a fast guy so he probably wanted to use his speed somehow, but you try not to think to much. Just react.”

It was the third penalty shot in the playoffs against Washington all-time. It was the first save in such a situation since 1983 when Al Jensen stopped Denis Potvin. Mike Richards scored on Cristobal Huet in 2008, in case you were wondering what happened in the other penalty shot against the Caps.

“We’ve prepared ourselves better for the playoffs,” Holtby said when asked about what he’s seeing in terms of the team’s difference compared to playoffs past. “Our whole year has been concerned about being able to play in the playoffs, and you look at our game from the regular season to the playoffs there isn’t much of a difference. Just a little more … desperation plays but our structure is very similar.”

From this reporter’s perspective, it was the best atmosphere at the barn on F Street since the second season began on April 15. The George Mason University marching band performed outside before the game (see below). The in-house decibel meter measured the volume at north of 110 dB more often than not in the third period, topping out at 116 at the pinnacle of the “Unleash the Fury” montage. Walking past the sports bar adjacent to the arena afterward felt more like walking past a collegiate fraternity party with the palpable buzz in the air.

And really, the fans can be easily excused for screaming their heads off and serving as a true seventh man to their team’s cause. This is all taking place in a city that’s waited over two decades for a world championship in a major sport. It’s been since 1998 that one of the four major teams has advanced to the penultimate round of their respective playoffs (an Eastern Conference Final in hockey or basketball, an NFC Championship Game in football or a National League Championship Series in baseball), when the Capitals eventually played in the Stanley Cup Final. By 10 p.m. on Friday night in Manhattan, the latter of those two droughts could come to a shocking and relieving end.

About Eric Hobeck

Eric Hobeck is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Capitals. Eric contributes to high school sports coverage at InsideNova.com. He served as sports editor of The Rotunda at Longwood University for two years, where he was also the men’s basketball beat writer. He hosted a campus radio show for three years and called basketball and baseball games for the station’s award-winning sports team. You can follow Eric on Twitter @eric_hobeck.

%d bloggers like this: