The Capitals barely had time to enjoy their two-goal lead in Game 6 before Jeff Halpern was whistled for a double minor, four minutes for high sticking John Mitchell. At 12:05 of the second period, it was the perfect opportunity for New York to find a way back into the contest.
After watching Game 5 unravel as the Rangers scored a pair of power play goals, the Capitals’ penalty-kill unit was looking for some redemption.
“We didn’t have the kill that we wanted last game,” Troy Brouwer said after Wednesday night’s 2-1 win. “Our penalty kill’s been good all playoffs long. It just happened that they had a couple good breaks in the last game. And tonight guys took it upon themselves to make sure we were blocking shots, getting clears all the way down the ice and clearing guys out of the front of the net so [goaltender Braden] Holtby could see all the shots.”
The Capitals allowed New York to get only three shots on net against Holtby and largely limited their foes to the perimeter of the offensive zone. They also managed to take some time off the clock by spending some of it in the Rangers’ zone.
“I guess the only thing that we try to change is really make your shifts short,” Matt Hendricks said of facing a four-minute penalty kill. “When that puck gets sent down all the way to the other end, change. There’s no real need to go out and try to take chances, pressure too far down in their end, because you can get caught that way. Just by changing and changing and changing we’re able to stay a little bit more rested for the four minutes.”
When time expired and Halpern exited the penalty box, the sold-out crowd at Verizon Center offered the Capitals a standing ovation and roared as if a goal had been scored. Washington not only thwarted the power play, but it wound up gaining momentum of its own in the process.
The penalty kill also came without Jay Beagle, who suffered an apparent injury to his right leg after blocking a shot by Anton Stralman in Game 5. Beagle is second among forwards in shorthanded ice time (2:42 per game) in the postseason, and with him out of the mix the Capitals turned to a committee of forwards.
In addition to the usual cast of penalty killing forwards in Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks and Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom saw their shorthanded time increase in Game 6 to 3:21 and 3:49, respectively. Jason Chimera, who rarely takes part in the unit, played 1:30.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like Beagle, the way he works and how good he is on faceoffs and things like that, shot-blocking,” Hendricks said. “But we were able to get it done. I think we just battled, we worked and we were successful.”
More on Game 6:
— Rangers lament missed opportunities
— Caps come out firing, force Game 7
— Ovechkin shoots while sitting down
— Hamilton: Caps continue to evolve
— Caps 2012 playoffs, shot by shot
— Holtby, his mom and big-game zen