NEW YORK- Henrik Lundqvist earned the nickname the King for his All-Star caliber regular seasons and his off-ice charisma.
But Lundqvist was forced to temporarily abdicate the throne after the Capitals scored five goals on its first 20 shots en route to a 5-3 victory in Game 6 in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist started the third period on the bench, marking the second consecutive game he was pulled as the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series moves to an elimination Game 7 Tuesday in Washington.
Rangers coach John Tortorella could only watch from the
Garden’s suite level as the Capitals break a 1-all tie with four straight goals. Tortorella served his one-game suspension for throwing an object at a Capitals fan in Game 5 and was helpless to aid assist coach Jim Schoenfeld as Washington evened the series after going down 3-1.
The Capitals entered the series with statistically superior talent thanks to NHL leading goal-scorer
Alex Ovechkin and five total 20-goal scorers. Lundqvist helped the Rangers close that gap, logging a shutout in the Game 2 victory while holding the Caps to a single goal two games later. But Washington has made the adjustments, scoring nine goals against Lundqvist the past two games, spanning just four periods as the netminder was pulled at the second intermission for the second time in three days.
“He can’t play every game like a god,” said Ovechkin, who converted a power play chance for his third tally of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the left point to make it a 5-1 game 16:44 into the second. “He can’t save the game all the time. When we play our game, we play simple, we play hard and nobody can stop us.”
Poti used to draw boos from World’s Most Famous Arena when he played for the Rangers in 2006. Those jeers rained down from the green and purple seats, though it was out of frustration after Poti picked up the assist on fellow defenseman Mike Green’s goal that made it 2-1.
The next goal would be difficult to pin on Lundqvist. Washington killed Poti’s delay-of-game penalty and lucked out when Poti escaped the penalty box just in time to get a puck and initiate a 3-on-1 breakout that allowed him to executive a highlight-worthy give-and-go with David Steckel and Boyd Gordon.
Poti beat Lundqvist by culminating a tic-tac-toe play with his first goal of the playoffs,
contributing to his first four-point game since 2004, when he was wearing a Rangers uniform.
“The team has to play better in front of Henrik, for sure,” Schoenfeld said. “We’ve got to protect the puck in the offensive zone and get some rubber at their goalie. And Henrik has to be better, that’s for sure.”
Donald Brashear’s borderline cheap 9:56 into the opening period knocked out Blair Betts for the rest of the
game. “It was a late hit to the head,” Schoenfeld said, “and it was pretty vicious.” The Rangers did not confirm his status for the upcoming elimination game.
Scott Gomez gave the Rangers life in the first, responding to Milan Jurcina’s opening goal with his second of the playoffs just 1:06 after Washington got on the scoreboard. The Capitals scored the next three goals before first intermission, seizing the momentum to send the series back to the Verizon Center.
“There’s not much you can say. It’s a clean slate now,” Gomez said. “It’s a Game 7. We’ve all dreamt about it in our heads a thousand times. It’s all in the past now. We have one game to go.”
One day before his 21st birthday, Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov made 29 saves. Steve Valiquette played goal in the final period for the Rangers, which cut the deficit when Ryan Callahan and Marc Stall padded their goal totals when the contest was all but over. The Rangers won the first two games in Washington before falling there in Game 5.
“We’re going to stay confident,” defenseman Paul Mara said. “We haven’t been at our best the last two games but we have a chance to go into their building like we have previously in the series and win. We have to go in with the mindset knowing we’re going to win.”