It was a pretty crazy night at the Phone Booth. The Washington Capitals lived to fight another day with a 4-0 victory against the New York Rangers.
Here are some of the highlights:
* Matt Bradley scored his first playoff goal. Then he scored his second one. In the first period. Against the guy who has been befuddling the Caps for four games.
We can’t make this stuff up. Bradley made a beautiful move to poke the puck past Chris Drury and then beat Henrik Lundqvist with a breakaway backhander while shorthanded.
“I have to give [assistant coach] Dean Evason credit,” said Bradley, who used a similar move to end a 12-round shootout against Edmonton said. “We play a little game at the end of every pre-game skate that we have to do breakaways.”
* Bradley has as many goals in this series as Alex Ovechkin, but No. 8 had a fantastic tally to make it 4-0. He wasn’t as impressed with his whirling, falling manuevers.
“It was just lucky bounce I think,” Ovechkin said. “I hit Morris and it goes to my skates. I have balance but it was no good and I just fell. … My backhand is terrible.”
He also made two other moves to beat Rangers defensemen in the game. He put only three shots on net, but he was still a big factor.
* Nicklas Backstrom won the faceoff back to Alexander Semin for his goal that made it 3-0. Two things: Backstrom leads the league with five playoff assits. Semin leads all current Caps with seven playoffs goals in a Washington uniform. After a rough night in the circle in Game 4, Backstrom won 62 percent tonight. His work along the walls and in the corners was also great.
* Simeon Varlamov … what more is there to say? The kid is unshakable. He leads the NHL in playoff goals against average (0.76) and save percentage (.969). If he is affected by the big stage, it certainly isn’t showing.
“There are some things that will rattle anybody, but if there is anything that would rattle me I am definitely not sharing it now,” Varlamov said through a translator.
Added Boudreau: “I’m just going to keep letting him go. I don’t want to get in his head. I don’t even want to talk to him.”
* Finally, we find out that “King Henrik” is not unfallable. Lundqvist yielded four goals on 14 shots, and was pulled after 40 minutes.
“Every great goalie every now and then makes a mistake,” Boudreau said. “The thing that worried me about that was when I saw [the second goal] go in, I said, ‘Oh, he’s gonna be great the next game,’ because usually they bounce right back and are great. I anticipate him being great on Sunday.”
* If Sean Avery wasn’t enough of a circus for the New York Rangers, coach John Tortorella had an incident with a fan behind the bench. The video evidence is not great/complete, but Tortorella clearly chucked a water bottle into the stands, and it appears there was some liquid (presumably beer) tossed on him. He also grabbed a stick and had to be restrained by former Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld (the irony of Schoenfeld being the calming influence in this matter was not lost on the vets in the press room).
Here was the exchange during Tortorella’s press conference:
“Ask me a question about the game,” Tortorella said. “That has nothing to do with the game.” When pressed on the matter, Tortorella responded, “Ask me a question about the game, please,” and Rangers vice president of public relations John Rosasco said, “Another one on that and we’re done, OK?”
* Mike Green had one shot on net in 25 minutes, but Bruce Boudreau was upset that people might be questioning his performance. He said if Chris Pronger played that much and the team didn’t yield any goals, Pronger would be lauded for his effort. Good point, but Green still looked off a bit.
* Tortorella called out his best players after the game. He should. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan have been the team’s best forwards. Guys like Scott Gomez, Nik Antropov, Nikolai Zherdev … not so much.