2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 - N.Y. Rangers 3, Washington 2 – Capitals lead series, 2-1
There’s no piece of federal legislation coming out of Washington, D.C., which says that goals have to be pretty in the hockey playoffs. The New York Rangers scored the kinds of goals that are impossible to reduplicate, but they don’t care.
The Blueshirts needed to do whatever they could to put some frozen rubbers in the net on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, and that’s exactly what they did. Placed in a must-win situation after falling behind by two games in this first-round series, the Rangers scratched and clawed just enough to make their own luck and skate past the Washington Capitals to create a series. Game 4 gives the Rangers a chance to draw even in the series and re-apply pressure to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
This was just not the kind of game that gets replicated very easily, but it bears repeating that New York, after scoring just one goal in the first two games of the series, was not in a position to choose how it scored. Coach John Tortorella’s team simply had to find some way, any way, of lighting the lamp and solving Washington’s playoff rookie, goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Washington really put the clamps on the boys from Broadway in Games 1 and 2, stifling the Rangers to the point that the number eight seed lost twice despite getting excellent goaltending from star backstop Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers came back to The World’s Most Famous Arena with an 0-2 series deficit because they weren’t able to give Lundqvist any support. That needed to change, but nobody said the Rangers had to score in an aesthetically pleasing manner; they just had to get the puck over Neuvirth’s goal line.
They did… in supremely ugly ways.
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New York’s first goal was baffling. Erik Christensen fired a shot from the right corner of the rink, at about a 15-degree angle, nothing more. The shot somehow got past Neuvirth and hit the corner of the net, just inside the post. That goal broke a scoreless tie early in the second period and allowed the Rangers to avoid the pure panic of falling behind. Tortorella never had to send his team on desperate kamikaze missions with his team trailing in this game, and that’s because Christensen and, a little later, Vaclav Prospal scored to give the Rangers a pair of one-goal leads. Washington, thanks to tallies by Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble, was able to tie the score after each Ranger goal, but the Blueshirts had one more fluky goal to offer.
With the clock ticking just inside the two-minute mark of regulation, the Rangers made a rush toward the net. Brandon Dubinsky uncorked a shot that went off defenseman Karl Alzner, then Neuvirth, and then the stick of Ovechkin. The puck fluttered in the air, just behind Neuvirth, and Ovechkin made a futile attempt to prevent the puck from drifting behind the goal line once it landed on the ice. The goal with 1:39 left gave the Rangers their final lead of the day, and when Washington was unable to mount a response in the final minutes, the home team got back in the series.
We’ll see what kinds of bounces the Rangers can generate in Game 4. New York did what it had to do on Sunday, but as this series develops, the eighth seed has to beat the Capitals more cleanly.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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