After the first twenty minutes of their final game before the Christmas break back in late December, the Caps found themselves in the visitors' locker room at Madison Square Garden in what seemed like an insurmountable hole, down big in a building in which they hadn't won in nearly five years and facing one of the League's very best netminders.
Things would get worse before they got better, but when they did, boy did they ever. More than halfway through the game, Alexander Ovechkin gave the Caps life, and twenty hockey minutes later the game was tied. Not a minute into overtime, birthday boy Shaone Morrisonn completed the comeback win with his first goal of the season, and the Caps would go on to win their next half-dozen games.
When asked about his team's near-miraculous in-game resurgence, Ovechkin said:
"[The Rangers] stopped playing hockey. They probably believed 4-0 they'd win the game. They tried to play conservative, but we play a different way. We play a hard, physical game and take lots of shots. You see the results."
Those results added up to a win that in many ways has thus far foreshadowed the first round series between the Caps and Rangers - the Rangers jumped out to a big lead early, leaving the Caps in what (statistically, at least) seemed like an insurmountable hole and facing a white-hot Henrik Lundqvist.
And while maybe the Rangers did take for granted that the series was theirs - there's no way their golden backstop could have four bad games in five starts, is there? - the simple truth is that when the Caps are on, they do "play a different way... a hard, physical game and take lots of shots." And you've seen the results. As AO put it after Game 6, "when we play our game, we play simple, we play hard, nobody can stop us."
Nobody, that is, except perhaps Henrik Lundqvist.
Yanked in two straight games, his glove hand exposed, his positioning off, and his confidence no doubt waning, Lundqvist is under more pressure than anyone on either bench heading into Game 7, because should the Rangers lose and choke away 2-0 and 3-1 series leads, many eyes will be on the the goaltender who got beaten - and badly - en route. King Henrik's record in elimination games is a modest 1-3/2.97/.906. Will a performance like that be good enough tonight?
Which brings us back to that game on December 23. On that night, then-Ranger bench boss Tom Renney said of Lundqvist (who made 31 stops in the loss), "Henrik played well. He was not a concern at all," which hammers home the point that when these Caps play their game, they're not going to be stopped - not even by Henrik Lundqvist, and certainly not by this Rangers team.
So can the Caps play their game one more time in this series and erase a slow start and begin to make right more than a decade of spring time frustration? If they do, the question won't be "Who's going to be this year's John Druce?" but rather "Who's going to be tonight's Shaone Morrisonn?" - the guy who caps the unlikely comeback win.