We’re more a little more than hour away from puck drop, and anticipation hangs thick in the air here at Verizon Center.
With players like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps certainly have enough talent to finish off the Rangers in Game 5. In Scott Hannan and Jason Arnott, they’ve got enough leadership. They’ll also have the backing of 18,398 boisterous fans (whom I’m sure will be ready with some creative chants.)
The only question now is can the Caps match the Rangers’ desperation and finish them off? (I hope Bruce Boudreau made sure all the televisions in the dressing room were tuned to the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay game. The Penguins were in the exact same situation earlier, and at last check, were down 5-0.)
I’ll have a full lineup closer to game time, so check back. Updates will follow after the jump in reverse-chronological order.
Update, 17:52 third period: Thomas Fleischmann gets a standing ovation. Touching moment to cap off an emotion-filled day.
Update, 16:23 third period: Semin buries a beautiful crossing pass from Johansson on 2-on-1. Girardi pinched at the wrong time, and Staal couldn’t breakup Johansson’s pass.
Caps 3, Rangers 0. Series over.
Can’t ever wonder again whether the Caps have the “killer instinct.” It’s clear now that they’ve got it.
Update, 9:32 third period: Caps should be up 3-0 right now. But Chimera missed a wide open net after a 2-on-1 crossing pass from Johansson.
Can’t be too hard on Chimera, though. He’s got two game winners in this series.
BTW, did you catch how fast that 2-on-1 unfolded? Johansson and Chimera have to be two of the fastest linemates in the game today.
Update, 4:16 third period: Arnott back on the bench. Also, just noticed that Arnott is wearing the alternate captain’s ‘A’.
Update, start of the third period: Caps have only 11 skaters on bench. Eyes not good enough to determine who else is missing, but it looks like Arnott is one of them.
Update, end of the second period: Caps still up 2-0. The Rangers, however, are catching them in shots, whittling Washington’s edge in that dept. to 9-16.
I’ve praised Green’s courage. The penalty kill. Ovechkin’s backhand.
Now it’s time to give Neuvy some love. Once again, he’s been the Caps’ most important player. He’s been especially sharp on the penalty kill, stopping all five shots he’s faced while Washington has been shorthanded.
It’s obviously important for the Caps to hang on in the third. It may be equally important to see whether Green and Arnott return. Green came back to the bench but never saw a shift. Arnott, however, disappeared down the tunnel with about five minutes to go. If I’m not mistake, I don’t think he played again.
Update, 19:30 second period: Green is still on the Caps’ bench. But he hasn’t played a shift since returning from the dressing room. Weird. Out there for moral support? Will only play in a real pinch? I dunno.
Update, 17:19 second period: Erskine off for interfering with Prust. I don’t know about that one. Thought the puck was in the vicinity of Prust’s stick/skates.
Update 14:31 second period: The Caps penalty kill has now killed off 18 of 19 Rangers’ power plays in the series. Great. But some of that is directly due to the ineptitude of the Rangers’ power play.
Update, 12:36 second period: I’m not a great lip reader, but I’m pretty sure that Avery was just saying, “He bit me,” while examining his un-gloved hand. He, of course, being Laich. The two got into a scrum at the side of the Caps’ net.
Update, 10:00 second period: Green returns to the bench. Presumably will be able to play. We’ll see.
Update, 7:53 second period: Caps back to the power play. Prust off for interference.
Update, 7:04 second period: Ovechkin scores a goal that’s pure ‘Old Ovi’. Heads up pass from Hannan gives Ovechkin a step on Staal, then Ovechkin blows past the Rangers’ defenseman, dekes Lundqvist and scores a rare backhanded goal.
It’s Ovechkin’s third goal of the series.
Update, start of the second period: Caps said Green is currently being evaluated and his return is “questionable.” He’s not on the bench to start the second, obviously.
Update, end of the first period: The Caps are ahead 1-0, but given how badly they outplayed the Rangers (the final shot count was 13-6) they could/should be up more.
Fans had better hope that doesn’t come back to bite the home team.
The big story after 20 minutes is the health of Green. He’s already missed a large chunk of the season after sustaining back-to-back concussions, and now he’s hurt again after taking a Gilroy slap shot to the face/visor area with 6:11 left to play. TV circled what looked like pieces of his helmet go flying as a result of the impact. Yikes.
Can you guess which Cap leads the team in shots on goal? John Erskine, with three. And they weren’t just dump-ins, either.
Alex Ovechkin, meantime, leads everyone with three hits. But only one of his four shot attempts found the net.
Now, the Caps just need two more periods like that one.
Update, 13:49 first period: Green blocks slap shot by Gilroy. Catches it up high. Face/visor area. Down the tunnel, but walking unassisted.
Dude can’t catch a break.
Update, 13:00 first period: Caps leading in shots 12-4. Feels like a bigger disparity.
Update, 7:56 first period. Fans chanting, “We are louder”. It was loud. Maybe a tad louder.
Update, 5:59 first period: Scrum behind net. Lots of penalties. Caps, though, end up with another power play. Bench minor on Torts.
Update, 5:42 first period. Johansson draws a tripping penalty on McCabe.
Caps cash in quickly. Looks like Green scored. Girardi tried to keep the puck out, but might have kicked it in.
Update, 4:31 first period: Caps get a standing ovation after one of the best starts I’ve seen them have this season. Shots are 4-2 for the home team. They’ve spent almost the entire first five minutes in the Rangers’ end.
Update, game time: Okay, I never should have doubted the Verizon Center faithful. Whatever they were chanting before the national anthem was LOUD. Slightly louder than MSG.
Update, 3 minutes until puck drop: Caps starting lineup will be Ovechkin-Backstrom-Laich and Erskine-Hannan. Neuvirth in net. Rangers are going with Avery-Boyle-Prust and Staal-Girardi. Lundqvist in net.
Walkom and Walsh are the refs.
Update, 14 until puck drop: Dan Steinberg just tweeted a photo of Tomas Fleischmann, who’s sitting in the lower bowl, as a fan, here at Verizon Center.
Update, warmups: Today’s lines and ‘D’ combos resemble those from yesterday’s practice.
So, one sign inside Verizon Center says: “We can’t HEAR you!” Another reads: “No MSG.” Clever, for sure. But there’s only one way for Washington fans to respond to Wednesday’s deafening chants at the Garden – and, at the same time, defend Bruce Boudreau’s honor – and that’s to actually BE louder.