The 1st period did not look good for this Caps team. The first shift saw a streaking Sean Avery almost slide one by Simeon Varlamov, and Nik Antropov got a clear-cut breakaway that was also stopped by the rookie goaltender. Brandon Dubinsky was left alone in front while Varly made a nice pokecheck that happened to land on Antropov’s stick for the first goal of the game just over five minutes in. The Caps were down 1-0 in Game 7 in a series in which they should have creamed the Rangers–alas another challenge.
The Rangers controlled the period cycling the puck endlessly forcing the Capitals to play their type of game. They only recorded eight shots on Varlamov, but the Caps only had two shots–the lowest count of the season. One of those shots however was able to use its own eyes to find the back of the net. With under five minutes to go in the period Alexander Semin did one of his pattented toe-drag shots that hit off Ryan Callahan’s stick, then his shoulder, and past Henrik Lundqvist. The game was tied 1-1 going into the 2nd period.
The cycling continued to wear-down the clock as the rangers dominated puck possesion, but the Caps did an excellent job of keeping them to the outside. The Rangers only recorded six shots while the Caps got nine, which is still a low count for a dominating offensive team like Washington. No goals were scored and no penalties were called as the 2nd period flew by as fast as Nicklas Backstrom was skating.
So the Caps met the challenge of being down 1-0, but now it was the 3rd period and time to complete the comeback. They outshot the Blueshirts 13-1 in the period keeping Avery and company’s cycling to the outside. With 10 minutes remaining, it looked as though an overtime stanza was on the horizon. That is until Smokin’ Al Koken made a prediction to watch out for veteran Sergei Fedorov, and Craig Laughlin added that this was his stage to perform. I also feel I had a hand in the prediction. Everytime he touched the puck I was yelling “experience!” and getting gritty looks from my Ranger friends.
Five minutes remained in the period as Ovederov (Ovechkin and Fedorov) rolled up the ice on a 2 on 2. Feddy streaked down the right flank, Wade Redden gave him some space, he stopped, ripped a wrister over Lundqvist’s glove short-side. In the press conference after the game as he was describiing his goal and at the conclusion he said,
“I shot it short-side over glove…you know…it’s standard”
The goal proved to be the difference maker the Caps failed to pickup in last year’s Game 7 loss to the Flyers in overtime. During Fedorov’s press conference, the Carolina Hurricanes made a miraculous comeback on Martin Brodeur and the Devils scoring 2 goals in under a minute to take the series away from New Jersey. Now instead of facing the Devils, the Caps have a new challenge and will face the Penguins and Malkrosby (Malkin and Crosby) in Round 2.
* Simeon Varlamov *
** Sergei Fedorov **
*** Henrik Lundqvist ***