By Jim Cerny, Blueshirtsunited.com
There will be a Game 7 Monday night in Washington.
Facing playoff elimination Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 1-0 with a passionate, physical effort in a taught, tightly-played defensive contest. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves to record the seventh post-season shutout of his career, while the red-hot Derick Brassard scored the game's only goal.
With this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series tied 3-3, Game Seven will be played Monday night at at the Verizon Center at 8:00 PM. The home team has won all six games in this series, so far.
The Rangers controlled much of the game from the first drop of the puck, playing stout defensively in front of Lundqvist, aggressively on the forecheck in the offensive zone, and possessing the puck much more than the visitors did. But nearly halfway through regulation, the game remained tied 0-0.
Then at 9:39 of the second period Brassard found the puck on his stick just inside the Capitals blueline and no Washington defender within several feet of him. With the Garden crowd screaming for him to shoot, Brassard hammered a shot towards the net, and the puck deflected off Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy before flying past Holtby to give the Rangers a much-needed and well-earned 1-0 lead.
Rick Nash was at first credited with the goal on a deflection, but it was later changed to Brassard's second of the playoffs. Nash did play a role in the goal, however, setting a screen in front and tying Oleksy up in front of Holtby. John Moore and Mats Zuccarello picked up the assists on the play, which started with extended time in the offensive zone by the Blueshirts.
The Rangers swarmed Washington in its own end even more after taking the lead. Wave after wave of Rangers won puck battles and created scoring chances off dilgence, speed, and physical play. But Holtby remained strong in Washington's net, even making a deft pokecheck as Nash cut in alone with 35 seconds to play in the period to thwart a prime scoring opportunity fort he home team.
In the scoreless first period the Rangers clearly had more jump than the visitors and were buoyed by three power play opportunities, including 44 seconds worth of a 5-on-3. However, as has happened so often in this series, the Rangers could not break through on the power play with the Capitals excelling on the penalty kill and holding the home team off of the board. The Rangers are now 2-for-25 on the power play in this series after going 0-for-4 on Sunday.
Though not tested often through two periods, where he faced only 15 shots over 40 minutes, Lundqvist was solid when called upon. His best save came with five minutes to play in the second period when he shot out his left pad to rob Alex Ovechkin after the Capitals sniper made a great move around the Rangers defense to set up his wicked ten-foot snap shot.
While being held off the scoresheet for the fourth straight game, Ovechkin played hard and passionately, even diving to the ice to block a pair of shots on the same first period shift. He also leveled Dan Girardi with a thunderous check early in the third period.
In what was another physical game on both sides, Michael Del Zotto crushed Mathieu Perrault with a huge shoulder hit in the first period, one which left Perrault down on the ice for a bit and needing assistance to the bench. Perrault, who scored twice in Game Four at The Garden, was able to return later in the opening period.
Ryane Clowe, Darroll Powe, and Marc Staal did not play for the Rangers due to injury, while Washington's Martin Erat missed his second straight game. Chris Kreider replaced Clowe in the Blueshirts lineup, after the rugged winger suffered an unidsclosed injury in Game Five on Friday night.