Since joining the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin has played in five Game 7s on home ice. The Capitals have now lost four of them, as the New York Rangers demolished Washington at Verizon Center on Monday night, 5-0, to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals and eliminate the Capitals.
It was the second straight postseason in which the Rangers dropped the Capitals in a Game 7, winning at MSG last year in Dale Hunter’s final game as coach.
“I think it was probably our best game of the series. Henrik [Lundqvist] was really good early to give us a chance and then I thought we played really well in front of him, right on through our lineup," said Coach John Tortorella. "I didn’t think it was going to be a 5-0 win, the way this series has gone, but it was our best game of the series."
It was the most dominating effort by the Rangers in the series, and by far their best effort in Washington offensively – New York had scored two goals in three games in D.C. before the scoring explosion in Game 7.
Where that scoring came from is as surprising as any facet of the Rangers’ win.
Brawler Arron Asham scored his second of the series at 13:19 of the first period, fooling Braden Holtby both in quality and placement of his shot. Taylor Pyatt made it 2-0 on a rebound from a Derek Dorsett shot at 3:24 of the second. Just 2:10 later, Michael Del Zotto fired a puck off of Mike Green’s skate – ironically scoring for the Rangers on an opponent’s shot blocking attempt – to make it 3-0. Ryan Callahan and Mats Zuccarello scored in the third period on Capitals defensive breakdowns.
The Rangers won a seven-game series without a single goal from Rick Nash and with one point from Brad Richards.
It was a testament to the Rangers’ offensive depth – and Henrik Lundqvist’s mastery in goal, as the Rangers netminder followed an MVP-like effort in Game 6, to make a 1-0 lead stand up, with a strong Game 7.
But as good as the Rangers were, it was the Capitals’ stunning choke in Game 7 that was the story.
The Capitals are 2-7 on home ice in Game 7s in franchise history. This was the first Rangers win on the road in a Game 7 in franchise history.
The Capitals lost their fourth Game 7 on home ice since the 2008. That year, it was the Philadelphia Flyers and Joffrey Lupul who won in D.C. In 2009, the Capitals defeated the Rangers in Game 7, but then lost in Game 7 to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. In 2010, they lost to No. 8 seeded Montreal; three years later, it was the Rangers that sent the Capitals home in seven.
What happened in 2013? The Capitals big guns again failed to fire.
Nicklas Backstrom had three points in seven games. Mike Green was a point per game through four games, including an overtime game-winner, and then silent in the last three. Marcus Johansson had two points in seven games. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist in seven games.
And then there was Alex Ovechkin.
He shot. He hit. He back-checked … occasionally.
What he didn’t do outside of a Game 1 power play was score goals, finishing with a goal and an assist in seven games for the Capitals. He had 30 shots in the series, but just one in Game 7.
This is as much Ovechkin’s legacy as it is the Capitals’. He’ll likely win another Hart Trophy next month, adding to MVP awards in 2008 and 2009.
In all three seasons, Ovechkin’s team lost in a Game 7 on home ice.
Turns out this was vintage Alex Ovechkin after all…
"I thought he played good hockey," said Coach Adam Oates.
The Capitals deserve credit for bouncing back from a horrendous start under first-year coach Oates to really for the last Southeast Division title.
But in the end, it was a different coach and the same embarrassing story: Star players underperforming in the playoff spotlight, and a home team with fate in its hands unable to close the deal in a do-or-die game.