By Dan Steinberg and Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The last time Chris Clark played in the playoffs, he lost hockey's biggest prize in the most painful way imaginable: a Game 7 defeat in the Stanley Cup finals.
After the Washington Capitals' 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers last night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the 33-year-old captain couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
"Being able to step into a Game 7 like that, all those guys work their butts off for six games, and I get all the good stuff," said Clark, whose Calgary Flames lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2004 finals.
Clark didn't record a shot on goal but had three hits in 8 minutes 13 seconds of ice time.
The rugged winger missed the last postseason with a groin injury and had surgery in early February to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. By Game 1 of this series, he had been medically cleared and was taking slap shots, and the suspension of Donald Brashear before Game 7 opened up a spot. Clark provided his usual grit.
"I thought Chris Clark was exceptional tonight," defenseman Brian Pothier said. "I thought he should have had maybe two or three goals. He had some excellent chances, he was banging bodies, he won every battle I saw him in. To come off a few months' absence and just step into a Game 7, it's not an easy thing to do, and just his presence, he does just such a good job of calming the guys down."
Pothier also returned to the Caps late in the year after a lengthy injury-related absence, and General Manager George McPhee last night compared Pothier and Clark to trade-deadline acquisitions.
"The guys that we were interested in weren't traded," McPhee said, "and there really wasn't anything else that we thought would be better than Brian Pothier or would be better than Chris Clark."Aiming High
For the first four games, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had threatened to steal the series, yielding only eight goals on 149 shots. But the Capitals figured out his weakness in the final three games: high shots on his glove hand.
In fact, Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out to his players in pre-game meeting yesterday that 12 of their 17 goals entering Game 7 against Lundqvist had beaten his glove. The first two goals Washington scored in Sunday's Game 6 victory were over his glove. And Sergei Fedorov's winner last night also went short-side glove hand.
"We all watched that this morning, where we were beating him," Boudreau said. "I don't know if Sergei did that on purpose or if that's what was given. But that's where we seemed to be beating him."Ready for Water Works
After Rangers Coach John Tortorella's water-bottle tossing incident in Game 5, there was increased security around the Rangers' bench in the form of a District police officer. Stanchions were also installed between the panes of Plexiglass separating the bench from the stands.
The fans in the row behind the Rangers' bench wore red ponchos over their jerseys.
Michael Nylander was a healthy scratch for the fifth consecutive game. . . . The Rangers recalled high-scoring prospect Artem Anisimov from the minor league Hartford Wolf Pack to replace the injured Blair Betts.