Thursday, May 3, 2012

Triple the fun: Gaborik wins epic

It couldn't go on forever. Or so you thought. For most of the evening, I was out, putting in a shift at work and hitting the gym. The text updates came. Ryan Callahan on the power play. Then John Carlson to some disappointment. At that point, I concluded 'So it's gonna be one of those series.'

Little did I know that an epic Game Three between the Rangers and Capitals would go on and on into Thursday. The score didn't change when I flipped on MSG radio at the end of regulation. As much as I wanted to listen to overtime, I decided to go workout. The fear of your team losing seven consecutive times in sudden death along with five straight in D.C. can play tricks on you. I figured it would end early just like Ottawa. I was prepared. But a funny thing happened. No updates till the first overtime ended. Then, the same for the second OT as I finished up.

At that point, I knew I was going home to watch what had already been a classic game. Ironically, I joked with another Ranger fan at the gym that maybe it'll go three and we'll be able to catch it. So, I headed back with Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney starting period six as I parked. I didn't leave till there was a whistle, walking in quickly to watch with Dad and Justin. Predictably, they were on pins and needles. Maybe it's not the same as the pressure the players feel along with logging ridiculous minutes like Ryan McDonagh and sucking down Gatorade an ounce at a time. But for any diehard pucker, nothing beats playoff hockey and nothing is more nerve racking than overtime. If you don't get a pit in your stomach, maybe you're immune to such high drama. I'm just glad I got to see an unreal conclusion to a great game that the Blueshirts prevailed in thanks to Marian Gaborik finally getting the proverbial monkey off his back- scoring the winner off a brilliant one-touch feed from Brad Richards with 5:19 left in the third OT.

It made the Rangers winners in the extra session for the first time since Michal Rozsival blew the roof off MSG in double overtime against Buffalo. A game we were fortunate enough to be at. Not as fun when you lose like the time John Madden beat us a year later or Chris Neil a couple of weeks ago. That's why you're shift to shift like the players you're cheering for. And when your team wins, you jump for joy and hug whoever's around you like last night.

It was a great response from the Rangers following Game Two's disappointment. They reclaimed home ice by outlasting the Caps 2-1 with Gaborik snapping an eight game drought, notching his first goal since our Game One win over the Sens. It couldn't have come at a better time, allowing the Rangers to breathe easier for a moment. Yes, it's nice to be leading the best-of-seven Conference Semi 2-1. However, it's only one win as the always guarded John Tortorella was quick to point out during the postgame. That it was Gaborik is encouraging for the Blueshirts because if they want to advance, they need their best finisher to start popping a few. Maybe this is what gets him going after being reunited with Richards and Carl Hagelin.

They were great with Gaborik nearly ending it minutes earlier on a similar play but ringing the post. The Caps came close too with a shot deflecting just off the far post to Henrik Lundqvist's right. Speaking of our goalie, he was at his absolute best making 45 saves including a couple of clutch ones with the glove prior to Gabby's heroics. As I soon found out watching highlights, the Rangers don't win without King Henrik, which is why he's up for the Hart, Vezina and Lindsay. He stoned the Caps and also caught a break when Alex Ovechkin rang one off the post in the first OT after a scary turnover by Anton Stralman. Ovechkin played much more and was dangerous following his Game Two winner. But Lundqvist was better.

On the other side, there was a heroic effort from Braden Holtby who like a goalie still around in another series, shows poise beyond his 22 years. He was remarkable again, turning away 47 of 49 for the hard luck defeat with his parents living and dying with every moment. Great camera work by NBC Network on Gabby's dramatic decider, showing the pain of Mom and Dad following a goal their son had no chance on. If you love theater, this was it. An absolute thriller much like Hasan's Devils last round. Moments earlier, Holtby flashed the leather robbing Stralman and also Brandon Prust while watching teammates dive in front to deny Ryan Callahan's bid. Captain Cally was again a true warrior delivering big hits and putting his body in harm's way like you'd expect from your leader.

I began contemplating thoughts of quadruple overtime which I'd discussed with Devil buddy Rob Davis. In some way, I was glad I didn't watch the entire thing. It had to be crazy. With fans telling me they nearly had heart attacks which is the usual anxiety we're accustomed to, it was a bit easier only dealing with one exciting period. The best aspect is it took a perfect play and shot to beat Holtby. It wasn't Jason Chimera cashing in on a Gaborik gaffe that killed us last year. It was splendid play from the top line, getting the puck in with Richards wisely attempting a shot just wide that Hagelin retrieved to an open Dan Girardi. Girardi pushed it down to Richards behind the net who with no hestitation centered for Gaborik in front for the decider. Just a terrific play all around that exemplified why Richards was brought in. He started it and Gaborik finished it.

It ended a game that had begun 90 minutes before Nashville got back in their series with Pekka Rinne blanking Phoenix 2-0. Of course, that already ended. The Rangers and Capitals kept going until someone played the hero. Luckily, Gaborik did allowing our team to win a game so well fought that the shots were almost identical as well as the blocked shots. This was playoff hockey at its finest. Maybe not the most scoring but gritty, physical and in your face as McDonagh would attest after getting absolutely crunched by Ovechkin in the fourth period. Marc Staal also caught Ovechkin. The totals justify the type of game it was.

Game 3 Classic Breakdown

Shots              NYR-49 Wsh-46
Hits                NYR-46 Wsh-59
Blocks            NYR-41 Wsh-40
Missed shots  NYR-18 Wsh-28
Faceoffs         NYR-46 Wsh-48
Takeaways     NYR-10 Wsh-12

ICE-TIME LEADERS

Rangers      TOI    Shifts
McDonagh 53:17  60
Staal          49:34  63
Girardi      44:26  50
Del Zotto   43:33  51
Callahan    41:48  46
Richards    39:26  45
Stepan        37:50  39

Capitals     TOI    Shifts
Wideman   40:42  46
Carlson      39:19  47
Hamrlik      38:43  45
Green         37:59  47
Alzner        37:14  49
Johansson   35:21  35
Ovechkin    35:14  37

The only real spectator was Stu Bickel, who had to sit after just three shifts (3:24) because Tortorella doesn't trust him. You have to wonder why Tortorella refuses to play him more. Bickel is physical. Yes. It was his brutal turnover that led to the Caps' tying marker in Game Two. But if he's not going to play him, wouldn't he better served reinserting Steve Eminger or giving Tim Erixon a taste? While it sounds risky, Erixon looked steady down the stretch before Tort replaced him with Stralman. Erixon can skate. You don't want to wear out our top guys. They lay a lot on the line. Hence, Girardi's lower ice-time with Tortorella riding McDonagh and Staal, who really looked gassed. Both clubs can certainly benefit from the extra day off with Game Four Saturday afternoon on NBC. Still, Dale Hunter is playing everyone and that might be cause for concern.

Based on how the first round transpired, the Rangers are aware that the series is far from over. They don't need to be reminded of how close they were to biting the dust. This is a young nucleus but with enough experience in the locker room to not fool around. Yesterday, it fell their way. The Caps easily could've won. The way it's being played, every shift matters. What our team needs to do is ride the momentum of an emotional win and take it to Washington. It doesn't get any easier.


BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Braden Holtby, Wsh (47 saves, utterly brilliant)
2nd Star-Richards/Gaborik, NYR (combined for 3 OT winner at 114:41)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (46 saves, money, 2-7 in playoff OT)

2 comments:

Hasan said...

I think I watched more of the game than you lol, at least live. I wasn't really watching until about the middle of the second OT, then I pretty much stayed with it till the finish. Callahan had a couple of unbelievable blocks in the 2nd OT, considering how tired everyone was at that point...you picked the right guy to be your C.

I didn't realize they'd lost seven in a row in OT. Our OT record still wasn't that great overall until the last two weeks, at least we finally get to see the fun side of playoff OT again.

Derek Felix said...

It really was something. I didn't even have to watch the other 5 periods to realize how great a game it was. Your team sure is showing a lot of guts. Now, we got another must win. We're going to Game 5. :P

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