WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 2: Alexander Semin #28 of Washington Capitals skates during warmups before Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers on May 2, 2012 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tale of the Tape: Capitals vs Rangers

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals will host the New York Rangers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal (12:30 pm ET, NBC). The Rangers lead the series 2-1; here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Leading scorers

Washington: Alex Ovechkin (3G-3A-6PTS) | New York: Brad Richards (4G-5A-9PTS)

Starting goalies

Washington: Braden Holtby (5-5, 1.94 GAA) | New York: Henrik Lundqvist (6-4, 1.55 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series split 2-2.

Nov. 25: New York 6, at Washington 3
Dec. 28: at Washington 4, New York 1
Feb. 12: At New York 3, Washington 2
Apr. 7: Washington 4, at New York 1

Game 1: New York 3, Washington 1

One of the things both teams had in common in the first round is that they blocked a ton of shots. That trend persisted into the series opener. The Capitals and Rangers blocked 14 shots each and they combined for a mere 32 shots on goal.

The lack of action proved to be an unusual challenge for Braden Holtby, who had faced at least 29 shots per game in the first round. He admitted after the contest that it was hard to stay focused.

That didn’t seem to be an issue for Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 17 of 18 shots. In the battle between these two defensively adept squads, the Rangers struck first.

Game 2: Washington 3, New York 2

Holtby looked much better in Game 2, but he wasn’t the story of this contest. Alex Ovechkin logged a mere 3:33 minutes of playing time in the first period and was even held off the ice during several offensive zone faceoffs. However, the Capitals had a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, so it was hard to fault coach Dale Hunter for his choice.

The Capitals maintained their one-goal lead until Ryan Callahan found the back of the net at 6:58 of the third period. With the game now tied, the Capitals scrambled to regain their edge. As luck would have it, the Rangers were willing to help them by committing two minor penalties in the span of less than three minutes.

New York successfully killed off the first penalty, but Ovechkin scored his third goal of the playoffs shortly after the Rangers committed their second penalty of the period. Ovechkin still ended up with just 13:36 minutes of playing time, but he made a big difference.

Game 3: New York 2, Washington 1 (3OT)

After 114:41 minutes of playing time, Marian Gaborik finally ended Game 3. The contest took well over four hours to complete.

This match featured several warriors, but none more noteworthy than Ryan McDonagh, who logged a stunning 53:17 minutes of playing time. Marc Staal finished just 26 seconds shy of breaching the 50-minutes mark.

Gaborik’s winner was his first goal since Game 1 of the first round on April 12. After nearly two months of failing to find the back of the net, he might have finally broken out of that slump.

Injuries

New York: Brandon Dubinsky (lower body), Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Michael Sauer (concussion)

Washington: Tomas Vokoun (groin), Tom Poti (groin)

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.