Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
The Washington Capitals fell in another game seven on home ice Monday evening, losing to the New York Rangers in the final game of their 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series by a final score of 5-0. Henrik Lundqvist was stellar once again in net for New York, posting his second consecutive shutout, behind a Ranger team that pushed all of the right buttons after falling behind in this series 2-0 and came roaring back to take their talents to the second round against Boston, who came up with a stellar comeback on Monday. With the loss, Washington once more is left to ponder what could have been after another early exit. And while injuries to key players did not help, New York simply wanted this one more and executted better. The results spoke for themselves.
Braden Holtby, who was the Capitals’ best player in all three of the games they won in this series (and probably in game six, as well), did his team no favors at the beginning of the game, making some solid saves but also allowing a very soft goal to Arron Asham from the top of the circles, which took the air out of an electric Verizon Center and allowed the Rangers to gain momentum after a very good start in terms of pressure and shots by Washington. That was the turning point in the game even though it came so early, and it’s a play that cannot happen in a game seven if you expect to win. Holtby was stellar down the stretch and helped to get the Capitals to the playoffs and win games in these playoffs, but one goal in this game was too much for the team to bounce back from.
No, that’s not to say that this loss was in any way Holtby’s fault. After that first goal, the next two saw him left completely out to dry by bad defensive zone coverage and poor plays by the team in front of him. The Capitals fell apart after that first goal and they kept trying the same things offensively and defensively, failing to make any adjustments as they saw their season slip through their fingers. That’s really all there is to say about their collective performance tonight.
Alex Ovechkin got himself off to a great start in this game physically, registering seven hits in the first period and establishing himself as a presence all over the ice against the Rangers defense. But as has been the theme since game three, when he probably got hurt, he couldn’t capitalize on the chances that he generated or the chances that he was presented with by the solid play of his linemates. It’s not fair, but the criticism of Ovechkin in the playoffs will continue to mount from outside sources until he puts the team on his back in the postseason and carries them a distance, if not THE distance. Such is the nature of being the superstar captain of a team.
This game had the feeling of game seven against the Penguins in 2009, just like the series as a whole felt like that 2009 series against Pittsburgh. The Capitals dominated the first seven minutes or so of this game before allowing New York to take the lead and then grind them out before blowing them out to another disappointing exit and an early summer. I don’t know what it is with this team and game seven, or getting 2-0 series leads and then letting them slip away. But if they want to achieve the ultimate goal, they must figure it out. This is simply too talented a roster, despite their inefficiencies, to continue to falter in this heartbreaking fashion.
PS – If you blame Adam Oates for this loss and want to see Dale Hunter back…
The Capitals will have postmortem interviews at Kettler Capitals Iceplex some time this week, probably Wednesday. And then we will all sit and think. Again.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.