It's even in large part because the Caps keep insisting on getting even. They still apparently believe the way to retaliate for a bitter one-goal Game 7 loss to the Rangers a year ago is to continue to retaliate.
NEW YORK -- It's even in large part because the Caps keep insisting on getting even. They still apparently believe the way to retaliate for a bitter one-goal Game 7 loss to the Rangers a year ago is to continue to retaliate.
Of course, on Sunday, Washington might have played 120 minutes, not just 60, and still failed to beat Henrik Lundqvist even once. In Game 6, he was again as good as he has been through 13 games between these two teams over two springs, which is absolutely as good as he will have to be again Monday night in Game 7 in Washington.
In New York's 1-0 win in Game 6, Alexander Ovechkin took his game up to his best level of this series while Lundqvist turned his own crank one level even higher as the Madison Square Garden decibel level rose with every save.
"Lundqvist was tremendous tonight," said Ovechkin, stymied by the Rangers goalie's left pad on a second-period drive labeled for the low far corner, and a snatch out of the air on an Ovie deflection in the final minute.
Lundqvist made a 40-foot goal by Derick Brassard off Caps defenceman Steve Oleksy in the second stand up in a game that was wonderful to watch and hard for Washington, which received no power plays to the Rangers' five, to take.
"You don't want to complain but one that concerned me, looked like a Derek Dorsett slew foot to me, [that's] why Mike Green reacted," said Caps coach Adam Oates.
Green took the last of three Washington retaliation penalties -- a cross-cheek on Dorsett -- with 6:14 to go, just as the Caps seemed to be letting out the clutch as they had during a dominating final two periods in Game 5. Their penalties continue to rob them of their momentum, their energy, and, unless they stop this immediately, perhaps their opportunity in Game 7 to prove themselves capable in the clutch.
"I thought we were really good in the first period until we started to take penalties, letting them get momentum, letting their building get excited," said Troy Brouwer. "And they score and we took more penalties.
"We deserve some, some we didn't. I can't believe they didn't get a penalty tonight but that's how the series has gone."
Rangers avoid penalties
It has because Rangers, the least penalized team in the NHL this season, continue to keep themselves out of the box. Their power play is a pathetic 2-for-27 in the series, and they are still winning the special teams battle because the Caps' best-in-the-league power play can't get on the ice.
The exception came in Game 5, when Brian Boyle got caught retaliating on Mike Ribeiro and Joel Ward scored on the power play to tie the contest on the way to an overtime Washington win. The Caps had the opportunity to make that the turning point of the series and failed Sunday because they still can't turn the other cheek.
In the first period, Jack Hillen objected to being stood up at centre ice by Ryan Callahan, and went at Callahan's head. In the second Eric Fehr did similarly to Brassard before Green lost it with Dorsett down the stretch.
All the while Lundqvist continued to play Gumby, an X-ray version, while Braden Holtby matched his counterpart for all but one save. Practically the only goals scored between these two teams for two springs have been through traffic, which is how Rick Nash, trying to occupy Oleksy, made his first real offensive contribution of the series on the Brassard goal.
"You try to be active to find pucks," said Lundqvist, who recorded his seventh career playoff shutout. "There are definitely bodies in front of you, but it you're active and you try to find it, it's a lot easier.
"Holtby was playing really well and kept them in the game, especially in the second period. I felt like this was going to be the type of game there was one or two goals tops.
"There was desperation out there. It was that type of game where you pay the price."
The Caps paid it ultimately for their own emotions. Brassard, who has two goals and five assists in the series, has stepped up so grandly for Brad Richards, (9:34 of ice time Sunday), that there is not much difference between these teams except their intelligence.
There is every reason to believe this is the way it will play out to the wire. The Rangers have won only once in their last 10 playoff games at the Verizon Center, but now it only takes one more.
"You lose two [Game 2 and 5) in overtime, you're close," said Lundqvist. "It's just a bounce and you win it, so we know we can do it. We have to play a really hard and smart game."
These two teams can't play much harder. But as they take it to Game 7, one is playing smarter.
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