They looked great for 53 seconds. Yes, the Rangers did. But the Rangers never scored again nor really much threatened before Mike
Ribeiro's rebound 9:24 into overtime won Game 5 for the Caps, 2-1,
Friday night to send them to New York with a chance to wrap it up Sunday
By Jay Greenberg, special to CBC Sports
They looked great for 53 seconds. Yes, the Rangers did.
New York forward Derick Brassard was quicker than Washington's Nicklas Backstrom and created a turnover along the wall, before passing the puck out to Brian Boyle for a slam dunk four-footer.
Quicker than you can say, "same old Caps", the team that had looked like the better one for Games 1 and 2 in Washington appeared headed to having to win Sunday in New York to stay alive.
The Rangers had the lead, plus the shot blockers and the goalie to make it hold up, John Tortorella style. They stepped up on Alex Ovechkin in the neutral zone, and let the Caps take the penalties while never giving Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin breathing room.
But irony intruded, not to mention reality. The Rangers never scored again nor really much threatened before Mike Ribeiro's rebound 9:24 into overtime won Game 5 for the Caps, 2-1, Friday night to send them to New York with a chance to wrap it up Sunday afternoon.
Boyle responded to a crosscheck at the end of second-period goalmouth scrum by Mike Ribeiro with the kind of whack with which you never get away. The least penalized team in the league had taken a whopper to get the Caps' hearts started.
"Dumb penalty," said Coach John Tortorella. "Guy is playing well for us but it's a dumb penalty."
Joel Ward stepped to the middle of the penalty box and one-timed Marcus Johansson's feed past Lundqvist 7:44 into the second period to tie it. The Caps exhaled and the ice began to tilt.
'It did go downhill'
"It did go downhill," said Tortorella.
The Rangers, who haven't found Brad Richards since Day One of this shortened season and Rick Nash since the opening game of this series, lost Ryane Clowe after a first-period hit by Jason Chimera, and were on fumes by the third period, an exhausted-looking Ryan Callahan included.
The irony kicked in during overtime when Brassard had a chance to clear and didn't get it past Mike Green, making the guys - Brassard and Boyle -- who got the Rangers off to such a good start, in the end the instruments of their own doom.
Unlucky for them, but for lack of a better alternative, the Rangers were down to stroking their lucky rabbit's feet until Ribeiro got position on John Moore and swept past Lundqvist the rebound of a Karl Alzner shot that had hit Troy Brouwer.
"We were one bounce away from going home with a chance to close it out," said Callahan.
Indeed that seemed to be the strategy. The overtime wasn't as one-sided as the second and third periods - Nash had his only two shots in sudden death -- but the Caps still had the better chances, principally Bobby Perreault cutting in off the wing and failing to connect with Ward at the post before Lundqvist stopped Ovechkin's 35-footer up the slot.
Ribeiro, who had done little through four games, cranked it up higher with linemates Eric Fehr and Matt Hendricks, and a third line of Ward, Troy Brouwer and Perreault were much better than anything the Rangers could put out there, including their de facto first line of Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Callahan.
Richards is now getting third line minutes - 18:04 last night - while Brassard was given 23:55. Meanwhile Johansson was the only Cap over 22 minutes and it showed.
Series not over
"When we put the puck deep on those guys, they will cough it up or throw it into the stands," said Ribeiro. "Sometimes we get away from that and then we're in trouble."
Which is why this series is not over, Lundqvist being another reason.
A year ago in the first round the Rangers went to Ottawa down 3-2 and pulled out the series, then another one in seven over these Caps. So nobody snickered when Lundqvist said, "It is not over."
Indeed, it may not be over until he says so.
But the Caps, who have now beaten the Rangers 11 of their last 12 playoff meetings at the Verizon Center over three series, are at least guaranteed another crack of finishing them here on Monday night. And the Capitals appear to be in proper frame of mind to do it
"They turned it up a notch," said Nash. "They are closing the space and not allowing much room.
"I don't know if I'm frustrated, just know I'm not scoring. And it's not a good feeling."