As the puck bounced over John Carlson’s stick at the blue line, New York Rangers rookie Chris Kreider flashed his speed out of the penalty box. The Washington Capitals’ power play was over, and it looked bad.
“It looked like a nice, easy play,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Carly was just going to get it and shoot it or pass D-to-D. It’s one of those things, it took a bad bounce.”
Madison Square Garden’s ice was not great. The puck hopped.
“It’s just a hockey play,” Carlson quipped. “I think I didn’t really mean to do it.”
Kreider got plenty of open ice with Carlson and Alzner chasing. But goaltender Braden Holtby did his job by letting Kreider make the first move.
“Just tried to be patient on the breakaway,” Holtby said. “In the past I’ve got a little ahead of myself in making moves first. Just try to be patient, waited him out and he tried to go five-hole.”
Holtby’s save was impressive, and an example of his making up for teammates’ mistakes that he didn’t do in Game 1.
The Caps led 1-0 at the time, and Rangers fans were waiting for something to get them back into the game. But what ensued was remarkable.
Carlson and Alzner got the puck out of the zone up to Jay Beagle, who got it up the boards to Matt Hendricks. Hendricks chipped the puck into the offensive zone and well behind Rangers defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman, while Jason Chimera was going full-speed down the ice.
Henrik Lundqvist made the mistake of trying to come out and handle the puck in the corner. Alzner said New York’s goalie was probably surprised because the Caps’ forecheck is typically more “passive.”
“The nice thing about that trapezoid is the goalies have to wait for that puck. So it looked like it was perfect timing that Chimmer got out there,” Alzner said.
Said Holtby: “Chimmer showed he’s probably the fastest guy in the world there. That’s a huge play for us by a veteran guy and a very character play.”
Chimera tapped it out to Hendricks, who would’ve scored had it not been for Lundqvist’s desperation stop. But the puck was loose just long enough for Chimera to score yet another big goal at the Garden.
Chimera had the double-overtime winner for the Caps in Game 4 there last season.
“It’s a fun place to play. It’s just one of those places, in the playoffs especially, when you get in there, it’s a big event,” he said. “The crowd’s always giving it pretty good. Maybe you get a mindset and the puck just kind of follows you around a bit maybe. Especially in the playoffs, it’s nice to get big goals.”
This was one of the biggest goals because of what the entire play meant. Instead of a tie score, the Caps took Rangers fans out of the game entirely with the two-goal lead.
“You need that,” forward Brooks Laich said. “Momentum swings like that can be the difference in the game.”
It was another example of a common trend: Big save at one end leads to a goal at the other.
“I think that it’s crazy to see that stuff happen,” Carlson said, “and I think it happens all the time just watching the other games. Teams are in their zone and working hard and then one bounce goes the other way and it’s a game-changer.”
Here’s video of the sequence: