Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals hit the rewind button and played Friday night's game at the Verizon Center like it was the regular season.
Chalk up another win for the Southeast Division champs -- enough to give them at least two more days of life in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Facing elimination, the Capitals played their best game of the series against the New York Rangers for a 4-0 victory. They chased a player they've been calling "The Difference," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, after just 40 minutes and 14 shots on goal -- and also got a second shutout from their 20-year-old rookie goalie, Simeon Varlamov.
Game 6, another elimination game for the Capitals, is Sunday afternoon back at Madison Square Garden. If the Caps win, Game 7 will be back at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
"That's our goal," Alex Ovechkin said of coming back home for an all-or-nothing Game 7. "We never give up. We fight and we love this situation. It's hard, but we love it."
For the first time all series, the Capitals actually managed to get to Lundqvist -- despite taking a series-low 21 shots. Matt Bradley, the third-line right wing who scored the game's first two goals, beat Lundqvist on a shorthanded breakaway 4:58 into the first period.
However, it was his second goal that showed the Caps that, yes, Lundqvist is human, too.
Bradley shot the puck from about a foot above the goal line and roughly 25 feet off the left post. Lundqvist tried to stand up and make the save by covering his five-hole, but he couldn't do it and the puck somehow popped through his pads at 12:07.
Lundqvist, who looked back into his net in disbelief as the sirens went off and the lights flashed, called it a "brutal goal" and said it was "just a bad decision" to stand up instead of going down on one knee.
"That's on me, that goal," said the goalie who had stopped 141 of 149 shots through the first four games of the series. "No question about it."
Bradley was as surprised as Lundqvist to see the red light go on.
"I wasn't trying to score and I didn't think I would score on that," Bradley said. "I was just trying to get it on net, and sometimes against great goalies like that if you could get a couple of lucky ones that's what you need to get the win."
Bradley, who swapped places on the third line with Eric Fehr for Game 5, became only the fifth player in the last 40 years to have his first playoff goal be a shorthanded tally that held up for the game winner. Kurt Sauer did it last for Anaheim back in 2003.
"I think the memory is Matt Bradley," defenseman Mike Green said. "He's the superstar (Friday night)."
After getting two goals from an unexpected source and limiting the Rangers to three shots in the first period, the Caps saw their superstars come out to play in the second, chasing Lundqvist from the net.
Alexander Semin beat him on a quick snap shot after Nicklas Backstrom won an in-zone faceoff back to him 4:57 into the second period. Backstrom beat Rangers center Blair Betts and Semin wasted no time one-timing a shot past Lundqvist.
Nearly 15 minutes later, with the roaring red-clad sellout crowd derisively chanting, "Hen-rik, Hen-rik, Hen-rik" -- they did it after every goal -- Alex Ovechkin came up with the play of the series so far, one that probably immediately found its way onto YouTube.
Ovechkin got around Chris Drury at the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo in the offensive zone, then put the puck through Derek Morris' legs. He regained control by kicking the puck slightly forward with his left skate, and while falling down swatted a backhander that beat Lundqvist to the low far side with 29 seconds left in the second.
Ovechkin called it a lucky bounce that he got the puck back after putting it through Morris' legs. He also mocked his backhand a little bit, showing some surprise that he scored with it while falling down.
"I wish I could have done it," Boudreau said. "It was pretty nice. I'll give him another shift the next game."
Lundqvist, who gave up his net to Stephen Valiquette for the third period, allowed four goals on just 14 shots after stopping 38 of 39 in a brilliant effort Wednesday night.
It's not as if the Rangers' offense helped him. They were shut out for the second time in the series by Varlamov, who made 20 relatively easy saves, and their power play was again non-existent, going 0-for-4 with only one shot on goal. The Rangers are just 2-for-22 on the power play in the series and are scoreless in their last 18 tries.
At one point in the third period Rangers coach John Tortorella even used fourth-liners Blair Betts and Colton Orr on the power play for roughly a minute each.
"I used practically everybody," Tortorella said. "As we get deeper and deeper, and now we're in Game 6, something has to give here."
Tortorella decided to bench controversial forward Sean Avery, who has 24 penalty minutes in this series, but discipline was still a problem for the Rangers. They committed 11 penalties totaling 38 minutes.
The Caps were 0-for-7 on the power play and are now just 4-for-29 in the series.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Best shift or best play. Hey, whatever, right? How can we not mention Alex Ovechkin's brilliant goal with 29 seconds left in the second period that put the Caps up 4-0. Ovechkin got around Chris Drury at the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo in the Caps' attacking zone, put the puck through Derek Morris' legs, regained control of it by kicking it slightly forward with his left skate and while falling down in front of the crease used his backhand to beat Lundqvist to the low far side. Unreal!
Brooks Laich did a wonderful job of forgetting his sub-par Game 4 performance (he was a minus-2) by putting together a masterful Game 5 performance. Laich did all the little things well and finished with an assist and a plus-2 rating. He was all over the ice on every shift he took with Matt Bradley and David Steckel, which was clearly the Caps' best line. He hit. He forced turnovers. He stood in front of the net. He created offense. He was excellent.
Sean Avery, because Rangers coach John Tortorella decided it was best to bench the controversial left wing after he nearly cost the Rangers a chance to at least win Game 4 in regulation. Avery committed two unnecessary penalties in the final 9:39 of Game 4 Wednesday night, but fortunately the Rangers killed off both. Although he was secretive about his lineup before the game and not willing to discuss anything Avery, Tortorella decided to go with Aaron Voros instead in Game 5. It will be interesting to see if he goes back to No. 16 in Game 6 because the Rangers were clearly missing their edge.
Although the Rangers still lead in the series, they have been struggling for offense. They may have bottomed out in the first period Friday night. The Rangers managed only three shots on goal against Caps' rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov and finished the first 20 minutes in a 2-0 hole that only got bigger. They had 2:45 of power-play time, but didn't even get even get a shot to the net. New York entered Game 5 with only 7 goals in the series. Amazingly, the Caps had 8 and were still trailing, 3-1.
If the Caps are going to come back and win this series, they're going to need the type of secondary scoring they got Friday night. Bradley gave it to them with a pair of first-period goals. Bradley was a fourth-liner in this series until coach Bruce Boudreau moved him up to play right wing on the third line with Steckel and Laich in Game 5. They can't rely on Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom to provide all the offense. It was important that a bottom-six forward chipped in big-time Friday night.