The month of March has been a roller coaster ride for the...
Make Believe Game Stories of Caps’ Miraculous Comeback
Third Period and Overtime of Game 4: Caps Stave Off Elimination
Down 3-0 in the second round series in Tampa Bay, and down 3-2 in the third period of Game 4, the Washington Capitals avoided a humiliating playoff elimination to the 5th-seeded Lightning with a 4-3 overtime victory. The Caps can thank Michal Neuvirth, who robbed Marc-Andre Bergeron on the power play early in the third, then Martin St. Louis late in the period. With the minutes ticking down and the golf courses within view, defenseman John Carlson tied the game on the power play.
Ten minutes into sudden death, Jason Arnott intercepted a pass along the boards and centered to Alex Semin, who toe-dragged around Eric Brewer and beat Dwayne Roloson glove-side. It was Semin’s second overtime game-winner in the playoffs, the first since his winner against New York.
“As I’ve been saying all series, the Capitals are dangerous,” Guy Boucher said in the post game press conference. “Having said that, I now believe that we are capable of beating this team in this series.”
“Arnie pass the puck and I shoot,” Semin said through a translator.
Game 5: Defensive Play Boosts Caps
Down 3-1 in the series, the Capitals played a near-flawless defensive game in Saturday’s matinee against the Lightning. Dennis Wideman returned to the lineup to give a boost to Washington’s defensive corps, and Michal Neuvirth’s 19-save shutout left Lightning snipers scratching their heads.
Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin each struck on the power play, both assisted by Nicklas Backstrom, revitalizing a squad that struggled all season with the odd-man advantage.
“We played our system and we were rewarded for it,” Bruce Boudreau said.
Mike Knuble left the game early in the third for an upper-body injury. He is day-to-day.
Game 6: Semin Tricks Lightning, Again
Still down 3-2 in the series, the Capitals returned to Tampa Bay. After a shaky Game 5, Dwayne Roloson sat on the bench while Mike Smith got his first playoff start, though he didn’t last long. Alex Semin continued his hot-streak with a hat trick, and leading the Caps to a 5-2 victory.
Roloson came back early in the second period after Semin’s third goal, putting the Capitals up 4-0. Mike Knuble, who was a game-time decision, and Marcus Johansson also scored for the Caps, while Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis struck in the third period for the Lightning. Alex Ovechkin, on the other hand, finished -1 with no shots on goal, no points, and a matching roughing minor with Steve Downie in the second period. Later in the game, Matt Bradley fought Downie, got cut and bled all over the ice at St. Pete Times Forum. The game was delayed five minutes to clean up the ice.
“He’s a great player when he wants to be,” Bruce Boudreau said about Semin, who also took an ill-advised hooking penalty in the offensive zone in the first period.
Game 7: Caps Complete Comeback
The Lightning were unfazed by the deafening roar of the Verizon Center, and got the early lead with a goal from Vincent Lecavalier within the first minute of the game. Undaunted by the setback, Matt Hendricks capitalized on a breakaway against Dwayne Roloson minutes later and evened the score at one.
Both teams shut down defensively from there until deep into the second period, when Mike Green scored from the point on a 5-on-3 power play. With the series on the line, the Lightning battled hard through the third period, and were rewarded with a goal from Ryan Malone. At the end of the third, the score remained deadlocked at two apiece, and the third overtime of the series was set.
Scoring chances were spare in the first 20 minutes of overtime, with only 12 shots for the Lightning and 13 for the Capitals. Midway through the second overtime, Sean Bergenheim appeared to have sealed the Lightning win, but the goal was called off after replay showed he had kicked the puck in the net.
A few minutes later, Nicklas Backstrom got a breakaway, but was tripped from behind by Lightning defenseman Brett Clark and was awarded a penalty shot. With a smooth snipe between Roloson’s pads, Backstrom completed the rebound from down 3-0 in series and sent the Capitals on to the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Bruce Boudreau said. “The pucks just started bouncing our way the last four games. This series could’ve gone either way.”
“That last call was f@#ing ridiculous,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, pounding on the podium. “The NHL wanted the Capitals to win and it’s clear that they were getting the calls. This league can go and… <content edited>.”
Additional reporting by Ben Sumner.