The Washington Capitals took Game 1 of their series against the New York Rangers thanks to a clutch goal by Joel Ward with less than two seconds left on the clock. However, just before that goal Nicklas Backstrom delivered a questionable hit to Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle.
Backstrom wasn’t penalized for his actions and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist thinks there was a direct correlation between Backstrom’s actions and the way the contest ended.
“Obviously the last few seconds there, I feel like we all just kind of stopped when Boyle went down,” Lundqvist told the Bergen Record. “We lost our focus a little bit and gave up the last chance.”
Marc Staal, who qualified his comments by saying that he was going off of what was described to him as he didn’t see the incident in question, thought what Backstrom did “seems cheap.” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who seemed angry after the hit and subsequent goal, refused to comment on the referees after the game. For his part though, Backstrom defended his actions.
“I didn’t see the puck but I knew there was five seconds left and everything can happen,” Backstrom told CSN Washington. “I mean, it’s something we’ve been taught from when we were kids, to play until the whistle and that’s what we did.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t seen [the hit], so I can’t really say anything about it. But it looked like he was standing by the wall there. Hits like that happen every game, so …”
You can see what happened for yourself below (the hit occurs with about 5.5 seconds left on the clock):
The Washington Capitals grabbed a Game 1 win against the New York Rangers with the kind of buzzer-beating sequence that won’t be forgotten for some time.
Nicklas Backstrom delivered a questionable hit on Dan Boyle before Joel Ward managed the 2-1 game-winner with less than two seconds remaining.
Boyle immediately left the ice, so we’ll see if the Rangers lose more than just the contest. The two teams brawled after the whistle, and one could assume that it had much to do with that Backstrom hit, Tanner Glass being sent sprawling onto Henrik Lundqvist and Chris Kreider’s collision with Braden Holtby.
Of course, it might have just been about the staggering series event that ended the contest.
The Capitals leaned heavily on Holtby in this one, as it seemed like he would make Alex Ovechkin’s first-period laser stand as the lone tally of the night. Instead, Jesper Fast was credited with a deflection goal with a little more than four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third, giving the impression that we’d get the first overtime squabble of the second round.
Obviously, that was not to be, as Ward found the net for another big goal. The guy just seems to have a knack for playoff scoring … especially when a new contract is on the line.
This loss really has to hurt the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers, but if previous Ovechkin/Lundqvist-era series are any indication, we could see many twists and turns before one team advances to the Eastern Conference finals.
As close as the New York Islanders’ 3-1 win was in Game 6, it sounds like the Washington Capitals believe that there was a noticeable difference in the two teams’ effort levels.
Nicklas Backstrom mentioned the word “hungrier” twice in less than two minutes while describing Washington’s efforts, which indicates disappointment (and maybe an urge to leave the locker room for dinner). Head coach Barry Trotz admitted that the Islanders desperation level was “a little bit higher than ours,” according to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt.
Should their be some concern about Washington’s historic difficulty to close out opponents?
Overall, the Capitals seemed a bit letdown by their efforts, but certainly not devastated. This contest was tight much like the majority of the contests in this series, as John Tavares said right after the Islanders’ win.
A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…
Lightning at Red Wings, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN
Petr Mrazek is a big reason why the Detroit Red Wings are in a position to take a 3-1 series lead tonight. The 23-year-old is 7-5-1 with a .935 save percentage and four shutouts since Feb. 5. Mrazek is also 3-1 with two shutouts and a .945 in four starts against the Lightning. For the Bolts, Steven Stamkos is slumping. The captain has just two assists in his last four games and three assists in his last 13. Against the Wings, Stamkos has been held without a goal in four games. He’s failed to register a goal in six straight postseason games overall. John Forslund and Andy Brickley have the call of Game 4 tonight.
Islanders at Capitals, 7:00 p.m. ET on CNBC
Nicklas Backstrom is leading the charge for the Washington Capitals, who will look to take a 3-2 series lead tonight. Backstrom has three goals and three assists in the first four games of the series including the overtime winner in the Caps’ Game 4 win. Islanders’ captain John Tavares was held off the score sheet on Tuesday for the first time since March 28, but the Verizon Center has been a welcoming environment for Tavares, who has five points in four games in Washington. Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire will be on the call tonight.
Blackhawks at Predators 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
The Chicago Blackhawks will look to finish things off against the Nashville Predators tonight as the series moves to the Bridgestone Arena for Game 5. Brent Seabrook scored a minute into the third overtime and Scott Darling made 50 saves as Chicago took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 3-2 win early Wednesday morning. The Blackhawks have won seven of 10 postseason meetings between the two clubs and three of five in Nashville. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti are on the call for Game 5.
Flames at Canucks 10:00 p.m. ET on CNBC
Like the Blackhawks, the Calgary Flames can wrap up their series with the Vancouver Canucks with a win tonight. The Flames used a 3-1 win on Tuesday night to take a stranglehold on the series heading back to Vancouver for Game 5. The Calgary Flames haven’t won a playoff series since 2004 – the year they lost in the final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is their sixth series since the ’04 playoffs. Calgary has lost its last five games when they’ve had opponents on the brink of elimination. Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Scott Oake have the call tonight.
Last time the New York Islanders were in overtime, John Tavares worked some magic. This time, he was on the short end of his broken stick, as Nicklas Backstrom’s OT-winner gave the Washington Capitals a 2-1 (OT) win and tied the series at 2-2.
After breaking up the big guns to try to spread their offense out, Barry Trotz went back to what has worked for Washington for many years, putting Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin together. That decision ended up being wise, as they combined for the Caps’ two goals.
The Islanders carried the play for noteworthy chunks of time, as you can see from this Natural Stat Trick graph:
That said, the Capitals seemed to seize the moment in overtime, generating a 7-3 shot advantage during that abbreviated period. Eventually that paid off, as Backstrom managed to deflect a puck in for a crucial Capitals win.
Many expected this series to be one of the most even-matched battles in the East, and with this crucial turn, that could very well be the case.
It’s also starting to ratchet up the intensity, due in large part to the Tasmanian Devil-like presence of Tom Wilson.
In other words, we have ourselves a genuine feud. We’ll see how things turn as the series shifts back to the Verizon Center for Game 5, then.