Fans at Verizon Center leapt to their feet as soon as the whistle blew. The Washington Capitals hadn't scored a goal all afternoon, but with the Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green-led power play about to take the ice, it felt automatic.
It's hard to believe Rule 63.2 would make the difference in a playoff game, actually in the Caps' favor. Though as they showed in Saturday's Game 2 overtime victory against the Rangers, they're well-positioned to take advantage of one of the few times officials can't swallow their whistles.
Mike Green’s eighth career overtime goal and first overtime playoff winner earned Washington a 2-0 series lead and kept its home ice advantage ahead of Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. The Capitals were in this position two seasons ago and went on to beat the Rangers four games to one in the quarterfinals.
Dale Hunter's 2012 team flipped a switch when the playoffs began. Adam Oates' team showed in Game 1 against the Rangers that nothing changed from the regular season.
The power play did yield a goal by Alex Ovechkin that tied the score in the second period, but it was a gritty penalty kill that turned things around and gave the Caps the series lead over the Rangers.
A couple of weeks ago, Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy had a fresh set of stitches in his lower lip. They're gone now. Taking their place are a couple of scrapes that will probably be followed by a bruise on his right cheek. That's what happens when you take a puck to the face from close range.
After a victory late in the regular season that included two goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom was asked if it felt like the "good old days" when the franchise cornerstones powered a high-scoring team. "It depends how it is in the playoffs," he said. "And we weren't that successful in the playoffs in the past."
"Obviously, we have a little bit of history with them," right wing Eric Fehr said. "We've played them a number of times. It's going to be a man's series, no question. They've got a lot of big guys, and they like to play physical. It's a good challenge for us."
With one more game left that has no bearing on their seed, the Caps are left to wonder whether they'll face the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs or New York Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they begin next week.