May 9, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a save on Washington Capitals left wing Troy Brouwer (20) during the first period in game six in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
With their season on the line, the Washington Capitals held true to their game plan, while the New York Rangers struggled to find themselves en route to a 2-1 loss.
In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, one team was characterized by their lack of cohesion, over-reliance on "star" players, a good deal of high angle shots, and only had a chance of victory because of an insane goaltending performance.
The other was the Washington Capitals, who rode goals from Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera to their 2-1 victory. With the pressure on after the New York Rangers' comeback win in Game 5, the Capitals could have been forgiven for falling back into bad habits and simply trying to power through Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers' defense.
Instead, the Capitals maintained the discipline that put them within a Joel Ward penalty of carrying Game 5.
Rather than putting more traffic around Braden Holtby, particularly on their extended power play in the second period, players like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik skated in and fired unsupported shots from easily saved angles. Their transition game, a key part of their overtime win, suffered.
To his credit, Henrik Lundqvist did everything short of walking to center ice and firing shots on Holtby himself in an attempt to close out the series, making a number of highlight reel saves. Scissor-kick stops, seemingly blind reaction blocks, and last second glove flares were on frequent display, but the disjointed offense, particularly with the man advantage, wasted the effort.
On the other end of the ice, Holtby rebounded from Monday night's loss by stopping 30 of 31 shots -- and the Marian Gaborik goal that beat him owed almost as much to John Carlson's tailbone as any other factor -- though the Rangers should be given credit for finally putting traffic around the crease.
With everything riding on Saturday's match in New York, the Capitals have found a winning formula. The Rangers must recapture theirs, or another top seed will find themselves watching the Conference Finals from the couch.