It was hard for everyone around the Washington Capitals not to feel a little sickening deja vu. A high-sticking double minor on Joel Ward led to a Game 5 collapse, and then Jeff Halpern let his stick get loose and drew blood from New York Rangers forward John Mitchell in the second period of Game 6 on Wednesday night.
“Obviously, with what happened in Game 5 your first thought is negative,” Halpern said. “With a two-goal lead it could have been two bang-bang power play goals.”
Going into the kill, Matt Hendricks said: “You try not to let it sink too deep into your mind. Obviously you want to think positive.”
Think positive, even as the Caps were without ace penalty-killer Jay Beagle, who missed the game with an apparent leg injury. But all Dale Hunter did was rotate Hendricks, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich up top to kill off the double minor and three more Rangers power plays in the 2-1 win.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like Beagle, the way he works and how good he is on faceoffs and things like that, shot-blocking. But we were able to get it done,” Hendricks said. “I think we just battled, we worked and we were successful.”
It was a continuation of a playoffs-long trend that saw a couple of blips with the two goals late Monday night.
“It’s been huge. PK’s been strong throughout the whole playoffs; it’s been unbelievable. Guys have been blocking shots, making a lot of sacrifices,” Ward said. “Guys are doing a heck of a job.”
The double minor was the biggest test. Holding a two-goal lead was nice, but the Caps knew even giving up a goal there could’ve been devastating.
They didn’t, and New York was unable to get any kind of real pressure on Braden Holtby and his teammates.
“It kills you,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of the failed four-minute power play. “It sucked.”
And buoyed the Caps, who could have been in a bad spot without Beagle. Instead, Hunter “spread [minutes] around.” It worked.
“We did good, I think. We were still blocking shots and doing those important things that you have to do,” Backstrom said. “And we were staying aggressive on them. So I think we did a good job tonight.”