Happy first night of the NHL playoffs, everyone. Tarik here. Just took my seat in what’s going to be a jam-packed pressbox at Verizon Center. And I thought the Montreal media rolled deep in the playoffs. Well, they’ve got nothing on the horde of New York scribes that follow the Rangers.
Anyway, I’m going to be blogging periodically throughout the game, beginning with lineups in a little bit. In the meantime, I’m going to finish my red-eye from Starbucks and perhaps explore the hotdog bar.
See you back here in a few.
--Update, 7:14 p.m.: When Coach Bruce Boudreau met with reporters at 5:30 outside of the Capitals’ dressing room, he answered “maybe” when asked if Mike Green would play in tonight’s playoff opener against the Rangers. And though we won’t know 100-percent for sure until the lineup is announced, it looks like the two-time Norris Trophy candidate will, indeed, return to the lineup.
If that’s the case, here’s what the lineup figures to look like based on warmups:
Fehr, Beagle, King, Sloan, Collins are the healthy scratches; Wideman (leg hematoma), Poti (groin muscle pull) are injured.
And if you haven’t already, make sure to swing by the D.C. Sports Bog. Steinz is killing it on the Caps today.
--Update, 8:08 first period: Mike Green rusty? Not to these eyes. Sure doesn’t look like a player who has missed all but two of the past 28 games with a concussion. Looks sharp and was on the ice for the Caps’ first power play of the series, which underscores Coach Bruce Boudreau’s confidence in his readiness.
--Update, 10:00 first period: Has Alex Ovechkin been saving himself for the playoffs? Just ask Brandon Dubinksy, whom he just crushed into the boards in front of the Rangers’ bench.
Dubinsky looked around as if to say, “Anyone get the license plate of the truck that just ran me over?”
That’s a big part of Ovi’s game. Good to see it early.
--Update, end of first: Michal Neuvirth looked calm and composed for a goalie making his first NHL playoff start. He was good when he needed to be, stopping all five shots he faced, including a pair of slick kick saves on Erik Christensen and Ruslan Fedotenko.
But the story of the scoreless opening 20 minutes was what didn’t happen at the other end of the ice. The Caps went 0 for 2 on the power play despite four shots. Shots by Alexander Semin and Jason Arnott clanked off the iron. And Alex Ovechkin was stoned from point blank range as they poured it on Henrik Lundqvist late.
It will be critical that the Caps don’t get frustrated. It’s happened before, of course.
--Update, 6:49 second period: King Henrik has been good. The cage behind him has been better. Mike Knuble just joined Jason Arnott and Alexander Semin as Caps who have hit the post/crossbar.
I can’t stress this enough: the Caps need to get one soon or the momentum could start to swing the other way.
--Update, 15:00 second period: Scoreless through 35 minutes on home ice isn’t exactly how the Caps wanted to kick off the postseason.
The good news: They’re out-shooting the Rangers 15-10, out-hustling them and out-hitting their opponent 21-13. They’re also getting a great postseason debut from goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who stone cold robbed Marian Gaborik from point blank range a few minutes ago.
The bad: They’re one bad bounce away from being in a very tough spot against a team that locks things down with the best of them.
Welcome to the playoffs.
--Update, second intermission: Before the game, Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked whether he needed to monitor Mike Green’s playing time. Apparently not. The defenseman leads all Caps in ice time with 15:16. His three shots are tied for the game lead, while his three blocked shots are second most.
It’s safe to say ‘Lambogreenie’ is back. (Except I don’t think he pushes a Gallardo anymore).
As for the game, well, I’m not sure what else to say other than the next 20 minutes are huge for a Caps team that is supposed to be mentally tougher than previous versions.
Well, we’re about to find out.
--Update, 1:56 third period: So Verizon Center just got really quiet. Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy put the puck off the post and in, just out of the reach of Michal Neuvirth’s pad.
John Erskine got beat to the puck in the corner by Brandon Prust, who fed it to Wojtek Wolski. Wolski then passed the puck out in front to a pinching Gilroy.
--Update, 11:30 third period: The Caps have three shots so far in the final frame. Hard to score when you’re not getting shots. Conservative Rangers, though, have something to do with that.
--Update, 13:44 third period: Caps tie it up on a goal by Alex Ovechkin, who forced his way to Henrik Lundqvist’s doorstep, then jammed the puck through the goalie’s skate and the post. The cage was knocked off after the puck crossed the goal line, but following a review, it was allowed to stand.
Take note of where the goal was scored from. That’s how you beat Lundqvist.
Verizon Center is rocking once again. Caps 1, Rangers 1.
--Update, end of regulation: With about 10 minutes remaining in regulation, I turned to my colleagues on press row and said if the Capitals get one, we’re going to be here until midnight.
Well, that might just happen now after the Caps killed off a roughing penalty to Alex Ovechkin with less than four minutes in regulation, which ended 1-1.
So sit back and get ready for the best thing in all of pro sports: overtime playoff hockey.
The Caps, if you remember, have some recent experience in this situation. Games 1 and 2 against Montreal last spring went to OT, with each team winning once.
--Update, 10:26 overtime: The longer this game goes, the more devastating it will be for the loser, who not only will be tired but down 1-0.
--Update, 18:24 overtime: Alexander Semin’s playoff scoring slump is officially over. Jason Arnott intercepted a poor clearing attempt from Marc Staal, then sends pass to Semin in high slot. Semin rips it past Lundqvist, netting his first postseason goal since Game 7 against the Rangers in 2009.
Caps 2, Rangers 1.