At first it was very recent history, with yet another scoreless opening period seemingly signalling yet another grudge match with very little offense. And then the Rangers found that offense, taking advantage of some sloppy Caps' play and piling on three goals in the middle frame - something which was reminiscent of a couple of horrific games from earlier this year.
But as the game headed into the third, a change took place. Suddenly it was the Caps answering back, as they did in this very same building a few years ago: one, two, three times, and then a final tap-in in overtime to take a commanding (we hope) 3-1 series lead back to DC.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Let's start at the end, because that's the best part. As overtime games stretch out in the playoffs, it usually comes down to one mistake, one bad bounce - and Caps fans are very familiar with that kind of thing working against them. Not tonight. Tonight it was a bit of miscommunication between Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist that allowed Jason Chimera to cash in. And of course, none of it happens if Chimera doesn't go to the net.
- That would be a trend for the Caps tonight, as all the offense for Washington seemed to come as a result of someone going to the crease and making life difficult for Lundqvist. On the first, it was Jason Arnott and Alexander Semin. On the second and third, it was Marcus Johansson (or more specifically Johansson's thigh/midsection). And of course, Chimera on the game-winning overtime goal. Strange, no?
- Today marked the one month anniversary of the last time Gaborik scored a goal. He celebrated by getting himself on the board...but somehow I think this is one anniversary he won't be commemorating anytime soon.
- Now, about that second period...as wonderful as this comeback was and as much character, heart, determination, whatever slightly cheesy (yet so true) verbiage you want to attach to it, the fact is the Caps were in the position for a comeback because of an outrageously bad second period. Shots were only 13-12 Rangers but the Caps looked sloppy at times, lazy at others, and it cost them. And any time you give up two goals in seven seconds, something ain't working.
- Speaking of two goals, how about Marcus Johansson picking up his first - and second - career postseason goals? The younger Swede was zipping around the ice again tonight and, just as in the regular season, seems to get more comfortable with every playoff game he plays. He could have easily had more but for a few unlucky bounces and/or passes gone awry.
- And speaking of twos, how about two penalties for Boyd Gordon? ...not so good, that. Especially when one comes about as far away from his own net as humanly possible. Never want to have one of the team's best penalty killers in the box,
John Carlson had a horrific first forty minutes, which included him completely forgetting about Marian Gaborik at the side of the net on the second Ranger goal. Like the team, however, he rebounded nicely, skating almost 35 minutes tonight and firing the shot that ricocheted in off of Johansson's leg.
- The talk after Game 3 circled around the Caps being more disciplined, not putting them in the position to have to constantly kill penalties. Didn't work out so well, as the Caps found themselves whistled for seven minor penalties - including, horror of horrors, one in overtime. That they killed them all off is both impressive...and a true reminder that the Rangers aren't the strongest team with the extra man.
- In a double overtime game, Matt Bradley skated just under 11 minutes, lowest of any player on either team not named Wojtek Wolski. Strange.
- In Game 1, it was a poor clearing attempt by Marc Staal in overtime that led to Alexander Semin's game-winner. Tonight, it was a poor clearing attempt by Ryan McDonagh in the third that led to Semin's shutout busting, crease-crashing goal. And talk about redemption; if Carlson had a horrific first forty minutes, Semin had...well, whatever is worse than horrific, but was one of the better players in the final sixty.
We've said it so many times this season, that the "how" sometimes matters more than the "how many". Well, tonight they both matter. Falling behind 3-0 is never something this team should never do, but to claw their way back into this game - in a more hostile than usual building - and to get the game-winner in exactly the greasy, dirty, gritty way they needed to...it's a thing of beauty.
And it gives the Caps a chance to put the Rangers away for good on Saturday.