Washington beat the Rangers 2-1, sending the series to a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
CAPITALS/RANGERS, GAME 6: CAPITALS 2, RANGERS 1 (SERIES TIED 3-3)
THN’s Take: Weren’t the Washington Capitals the ones who blew a lead in Game 5 with seven seconds left in regulation and lost in overtime? Weren’t they the ones feeling the pressure of facing elimination in Game 6? Didn’t the New York Rangers have the momentum? You never would’ve known watching a loose Washington team dictate the play from the moment Game 6 opened at Verizon Center. The Caps started at a breakneck pace, using their speed to push the Ranger blueliners to their physical limits, drawing a quick penalty and converting on an Alex Ovechkin laser less than two minutes in.
It didn’t matter which line took the ice. Every Cap forward – Ovechkin, Jason Chimera, Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson, Keith Aucoin and the list goes on – drove the net aggressively, reminiscent of the strategy the Phoenix Coyotes have used so effectively throughout the playoffs.
Washington went into a bit of a defensive shell in the third and almost paid for it, but won on the strength of two excellent periods. The Rangers, not the Caps, were the tight, visibly agitated group. Washington’s pressure penalty kill gave them fits.
Entering what should be a thrilling Game 7, the Broadway Blueshirts have a ton to prove. Was Game 6 a matter of being overwhelmed on the road? Or was it a choke job? Their body language early in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden will tell us a lot about how the series will end.
1. Alex Ovechkin – Ovie was the best player on the ice Wednesday night, setting the tone early with a beautifully placed one-timer over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove. But Game 6 was special in that Ovechkin also embodied what a captain should be. He threw a team-high five hits and his three blocked shots were second-most on the team.
2. Braden Holtby – Washington’s ‘D’ took a page from the Blueshirts’ book yet again, blocking 24 shots to New York’s six, so Holtby wasn’t exactly facing clean chances all game. But the degree of difficulty rose in the third and he was equal to 10 of 11 shots. Amazingly, in Holtby’s last 29 appearances (27 starts), he hasn’t lost consecutive games. How’s that for resiliency?
3. John Carlson – It’s a pleasure watching a blueliner who once starred for Team USA at the world juniors blossom into a big-game NHLer. Carlson made clever pinches all game, one of which directly set up Chimera’s goal. He was also phenomenal finding and clearing the puck on the penalty kill and the biggest reason the Rangers went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: In tying Game 5 late, Brad Richards flashed that clutch ability that made him the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, but he’s expected to play at that standard every night. He simply wasn’t the man New York needed him to be in Game 6, going pointless and winning 39 percent of his draws.
- Matt Larkin