Only in an alternative universe does Alex Ovechkin have one shot and no points and Joel Ward have two points and four shots.
By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports
New York -- Only in an alternative universe does Alex Ovechkin have one shot and no points and Joel Ward have two points and four shots.
There was no open space, and for all practical purposes, no plays being made in Games 1and 2, and suddenly the Rangers, allegedly the less talented offensive team in this series against Washington, scored two third period goals on tick-tack-toes to win a second consecutive game Wednesday, 4-3.
We mean, we're not surprised it's 2-2 going back to the Verizon Center, just not real clear on how the Caps and the Rangers got there. Washington's power play, the best in the league during the season, is 2-for-12 for the series, leaving the Rangers, who had 10 shots on seven scoreless power plays in the first two games, suddenly winning the special-teams battle.
Carl Hagelin, a Ranger effectively benched in Game Two, roofed one over Braden Holtby's shoulder that Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall and Patrick Roy together couldn't have covered. And with Ranger star Rick Nash, who has to be hurting, doing even less than Ovechkin, offensively challenged New York scored four goals regardless, and outplayed the Caps badly for the first 33 minutes of the game, yet still went to the locker room after two only tied 2-2.
"There were a lot of momentum swings," said John Tortorella, the moody Ranger coach, who would know. "The thing I like about our team the last two games is that we have certainly bent at times, but we didn't break."
True, but part of that was because they got some breaks. Holtby, who had all day against a shallow Ranger forecheck, threw the puck up the middle where Taylor Pyatt could knock it down, enabling Brad Richards to hit an empty net for the first New York goal.
Hagelin, on a fine springing feed from Derick Brassard, nailed his beauty from the faceoff dot and the Rangers, up 2-0, seemed in complete control until suddenly, thanks to an up-ice giveaway by Michael Del Zotto, they weren't.
In the final minute of the period, Mike Green made a save at the blue-line - so close you couldn't tell on the replay whether the puck had come out or not -- to get the puck to Troy Brouwer, who beat Lundqvist surprisingly easily with a high backhand to the stick side. And the air suddenly was out of Madison Square Garden until just as suddenly, it wasn't.
At the second period buzzer Jason Chimera got called for drilling Anton Stralman into the net, another fit of Capitals insanity to follow their five straight penalties in Game 5, and instead of being at the bottom of a quickly caved-in mineshaft, the Rangers saw a clear way out.
"It didn't really [change the game]," argued Caps coach Adam Oates absurdly, making excuses for a not very smart play by Chimera. "We just scored a goal, have a chance with a couple seconds left and he's going to the net hard and pushes the guy.
"It's a penalty for sure, but he's just trying to get a rebound."
Dan Girardi, on a beautiful saucer pass from Brassard, broke the tie on the power play 59 seconds into the third period.
Stepan finished off a three-way passing play from Hagelin and Ryan Callahan after Hagelin's quick stick had kept Nicklas Backstrom from clearing the puck, and it was 4-2.
Following a brief hiatus for the holidays, the NHL returned with a 13-game schedule. Four Canadian teams were in action, including the Flames and Oilers in the classic battle of Alberta. While in New York, it was the Rangers quietly continuing their winning ways.
The New Jersey Devils announced that Adam Oates and Scott Stevens would take over as new coaches following Friday's firing of head coach Pete DeBoer. President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello will join the two new coaches behind the bench.
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