April 30, 2009

Rangers Vs Capitals 04/28/2009 EC Quarterfinal Game 7 Review

Sergei Fedorov celebrates winning goal with Alex Ovechkin and Viktor Kozlov.
April 28, 2009 photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo.

Rangers 1 - Capitals 2

The Washington Capitals advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1998, when they defeated the New York Rangers in Game 7 at home Tuesday night, April 28, 2009.

The Rangers, as expected, came out full of determination and played at their top level. The Capitals started off the game a lot weaker than their fans would ever want to see in a Game 7. New York's goalie Henrik Lundqvist was as sharp as ever and Washington's netminder Simeon Varlamov was just as good. It was Varlamov who was tested early, due to the sheepish play by most of the Capitals for the first several minutes.

The visitors scored the first goal at 5:35 in the first period. Alex Ovechkin was joined by defenseman John Erskine in clearing forward Brandon Dubinsky from the front of the Caps' net while Varlamov made a stick save on his shot, leaving a hole for the snap shot of Nik Antropov to find it's way into the net. The fact that the home team wins a Game 7 about 63% of the time was little comfort to the hometown fans who also remembered that the team that had scored first has won every game but the first of this series. About ten minutes later, worried fans got some relief when Washington's Alexander Semin evened up the score. Just out of the penalty box, Mike Green joined Semin and Nicklas Backstrom for a 3 on 2 odd man rush. Backstrom left a drop pass to Semin as they neared the goal. Semin's shot deflected off the stick of Ryan Callahan and fluttered into the far side of the cage.

Neither team scored in the second period. The Rangers continued to play strong, but there was also some improvement by the Capitals. Some nervous (and classless) fans with higher expectations, due to the accomplishments of the team over the past two seasons, booed their team anyway.

The team leaders, it has been reported, spoke a few words of probably both warning and encouragement before the start of the third period. That seemed to help an awful lot, and Washington came alive when they got back to the ice. Fans also added fuel to the fire by cheering on the team the rest of the way. From the reactions of the players, that made as big a difference as anything. The Capitals kept up the pressure on the Rangers, while New York seemed to be running out of gas. With about five minutes left in the game, 39 year old Sergei Fedorov scored the playoff game winning (12th of his career) and playoff series winning goal. Matt Bradley fed Feds from the sidewall in the Caps end. Fedorov skated up the ice and fired the puck in top shelf, giving him point number 172 in his 176th playoff game.

The first round playoff series between the Capitals and the Rangers probably shouldn't have taken seven games to decide, but we're not going to hang our heads down now, are we? Some important lessons have been taught by the older, more experienced players and learned by the younger players. All of Washington's players know more about what they are capable of, as a team and as far as individuals. The players, coaches and the entire organization has made us Washington Capitals fans very proud.

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