After 94 shots on goal, the game was still tied. Another 127 shots had either missed the net or been blocked. More than 100 hits had been delivered. At least two players required stitches in their face and yet returned to the game.
Finally, after nearly 115 minutes of hockey, Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers scored on the 95th shot of the game to defeat the Capitals 2-1 in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.
It was a marathon game, and a battle of inches to try to find any advantage. Both teams had opportunities to end the game throughout the 55 minutes of sudden death overtime, only to see the puck rattle off the goal post or crossbar. It was the 3rd longest game in Caps history. “Triple overtime, it’s a special game,” said coach Dale Hunter. “We got a bad break, but that’s part of the game.”
For the 9th time in 10 playoff games this year, the game was decided by one goal. The teams traded goals in the second period. Rookie goalie phenom Braden Holtby played another outstanding game for the Caps.
The Rangers scored first on a power play early in the second period. A Michael Del Zotto shot from the point was initially blocked but Ryan Callahan was able to poke home the rebound to make it 1-0 for the Blueshirts.
John Carlson tied it five minutes later with a solo rush up ice. Marc Staal poke-checked the puck away from Carlson, but it bounced off his body back to Carlson’s stick between the circles. Moving left-to-right across the slot, Carlson shot back to the left and beat Henrik Lundqvist to the blocker side.
When no one scored in the third period in regulation, the game went to overtime. The Caps thoroughly dominated puck possession, with the best scoring chance coming when Alex Ovechkin stripped the puck from Anton Stralman in the left circle and beat Lundqvist … only to hit the right post. The few times the Rangers threatened, Holtby was a rock in net, or Caps defenders threw their bodies on front of shots.
Finally in the 3rd overtime period, the rangers were able to make a few passes deep in the Capitals zone. A centering pass from Brad Richards hit the tape on Gaborik’s stick, and a quick flick of the wrists ended the game.
“We have confidence that we will be back,” said Troy Brouwer in the locker room long after midnight. “We will be ready to play on Saturday.”
Game 4 will be here at Verizon Center on Saturday at 12:30 pm. If the series goes long, game six will be back in DC next Wednesday, May 9.