The Washington Capitals came out in the opening minutes of Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers intent on deciding the outcome early and in emphatic fashion; and they did just that. The Capitals pressured, out hustled, and kept the puck in the Rangers’ defensive zone for extended minutes, pelting New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist with shot after shot.
The pressure forced the Rangers to commit a penalty, putting Washington on the power play early. The Capitals cashed in, with defenseman Mike Green tucking the puck just past Lundqvist for an early 1-0 lead in the first period. Washington continued to keep up the pressure, and the few chances the Rangers had to score, were handled adequately by Capitals’ goalie Michal Neuvirth. The Capitals defense did their job as well, keeping the Rangers’ forwards from in front of Neurvirth, in addition to handling the attempts by New York agitator Sean Avery to instigate hostilities whenever possible. Alex Ovechkin put his stamp on the series with yet another one of his breathtaking dashes up the ice, putting the puck past Lundqvist, and Alex Semin put a one-timer into the net from a beautiful feed by Marcus Johansson for a 3-0 lead.
The Rangers scored late in the third period to make the final score 3-1, but the story of this game, the series, and perhaps the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is how well the Capitals have come together as a team, and are able to withstand adversity, thrive off of it, and prosper moving forward. The stars– Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, and Green, have bought into the ‘defense first’ philosophy installed at mid-season by coach Bruce Boudreau, and understand that playing as a team, not as individuals, is what will enable them to perhaps hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.
The Capitals next opponent is not yet determined, but if Buffalo defeats the Philadelphia Flyers, it will be the Capitals vs. the Sabres. If Philly wins, and the Canadiens defeat the Boston Bruins, then Washington will have a chance to avenge last year’s disappointing, early playoff exit at the hands of Montreal. If Boston and Philly win their series, then Washington will play the winner of the Tampa Bay/Pittsburgh series.