The New York Rangers have a Holtby problem, they just haven’t figured out how to solve the kid manning the pipes for Washington. New York came into last night’s game facing elimination, down 3-1 in the best of seven series against the Capitals. In a must win game, goals have to be scored. The Rangers may not have solved the mystery that is Braden Holtby, but Ryan McDonagh’s goal in overtime has extended his team’s season at least one more game. His goal gave New York a 2-1 victory in Game 5, setting up an even bigger challenge in Game 6.
While the Capitals failed to close things out, they get to come back to the Verizon Center to try and close the deal in front of their home crowd. It’s been a physical, grueling series between two tough minded teams with exceptional net minders.
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the third period, the Rangers didn’t respond until two minutes left in regulation on a goal from Chris Kreider. The two teams went two full periods without surrendering a goal, it was an epic finish. The game winning goal was set up by Rangers center Derek Stepan, he used a shot fake to clear some of traffic in front of the net as a defender went down to block the impending shot. He took that opening to drop a pass to McDonagh who was able to beat the nearly unbeatable Holtby.
With the Rangers in full desperation mode seemingly all night knowing they were facing elimination, Holtby was spectacular in defeat. He stopped 41 of the 43 shots he faced. New York outshot Washington 43-29, they also outhit the Capitals on the night. Their sense of urgency was felt from the opening puck drop to McDonagh’s overtime goal.
This game may not have gotten to an extra period if not for a huge call in the second period. A Matt Niskanen shot appeared to have went off Joel Ward, who was screening Lundqvist, and into the net. It would have been the first goal of the game, making Washington’s goal in the third period the possible go-ahead goal. That wasn’t to be as the referee ruled that Ward made incidental contact with Lundqvist in the crease even though it appeared that Stepan had pushed Ward into the goalie. The call is not reviewable so once it was made, Washington had to get over it and continue to play as they went on to do.
The Rangers aren’t strangers to this situation, they went down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins last postseason and rallied to win the series. That experience makes them a very dangerous team in this position, but these Capitals seem to be more mentally tough than that Penguin team.
Game 6 will certainly be exciting, the Capitals will have to come out and match if not surpass New York’s desperation and sense of urgency to put such a team away and close out the series. Throughout the regular season and already in this postseason, Washington has responded when needed. Game 6 will be Sunday at 7pm EST in Washington DC at the Verizon Center. Which team will come out with the sense of urgency needed to either extend the series or close it out?