Best period of the series for the Rangers and, even more so, the worst for the Caps. Here are a few thoughts:
The period started off pretty much the way first ended. The Rangers' power play was mediocre and after 25 minutes of play, they had just seven shots. Things turned their way after Dan Girardi blocked a couple of Alex Ovechkin shots and the Rangers drew another power play. The power play was awful, but a few minutes later, the Rangers broke through on an innocent-looking keep in by Michael Sauer and a dump behind the net by Chris Drury. Artem Anisimov retrieved the puck as it slid behind the net and banked it off Neuvirth, who was slow to get over to his right. 1-0 Rangers.
The Rangers rode the momentum after that, raising their level of physical play a notch. Wojtek Wolski, not a noted physical player, delivered a punishing check to Alexander Semin in the Rangers zone. The Caps, looking rattled for the first time in the series, gave up a mini-breakaway to Ruslan Fedotenko, who was the Rangers' best player in the period. Fedotenko slid it wide.
About 8:25 into the period, Lundqvist made his best save of the game, stopping Nicklas Backstrom's rebound chance with a butterfly toe save. But the Caps' physical play, so crucial in Games 1 and 2 in wearing down the Rangers' defense, was mostly non-existent.
Then, the Rangers benefitted from a seven-second spurt of brillance by Fedotenko that stunned the Caps and put the Rangers up 3-0. First, Fedotenko shielded Caps defender Karl Alzner as he skated around the net. As he came in front, he flung a perfect backhand pass to a wide-open Marian Gaborik at the side of the net: 2-0 at 13:40. At 13:47, an uncovered Fedotenko broke in off the faceoff, was stopped by Michal Neuvirth, but flung another perfect backhand pass in front to Brandon Dubinsky, who made it 3-0.
Certainly a positive sign for the Rangers that their best offensive players are getting on the scoresheet. For the Caps, both goals were the results of ghastly defensive breakdowns -- the kind we were used to seeing from the old Caps.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau gathered his troops during a TV timeout with 5:38 to go, and the Caps seemed to raise their level after that. Sensing that if they could score before the end of the period, they held the territorial advantage for a few minutes, and Lundqvist was forced to make a tough save on a redirection by Eric Fehr. But whatever momentum they were gaining fell flat when Semin took a dumb boarding penalty on Brandon Prust.
The Rangers are 29-0-0 this season when leading after two periods. Stay tuned for Steve Zipay's game story, notes and quotes. And check back later for postgame locker room video. Enjoy the third.