Joe Micheletti: ‘Capitals-Rangers Has Been A Wonderful Series’

In one of the most exciting games of the postseason, the New York Rangers beat the Washington Capitals, 2-1, in overtime in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday.

Curtis Glencross gave Washington a 1-0 lead midway through the third period, New York’s Chris Kreider tied it with less than two minutes to go in regulation, and Ryan McDonagh netted the game-winner in overtime.

“It was a terrific game,” NBC Sports NHL analyst Joe Micheletti said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “And you know what? Most of these games with these two teams have been that way. The goaltending has been spectacular. The two teams come into this game tonight No.1 and No. 2 of the playoff teams in goals against – the Rangers No. 1, Washington No. 2. Every game is low-scoring, but the games themselves don’t lack for scoring opportunities.”

The Capitals, who still lead the series 3-2, have allowed just seven goals in five games, including two goals in their three wins.

“Washington had this mindset under Barry Trotz that they’re just going to block shots, block shots, blocks shots (and) have the goaltender come up with big saves when he has to,” Micheletti said. “Braden Holtby had a remarkable bounce-back season for them. And so now they’ve gone up against a team in the Rangers – it’s the third-highest scoring team in the National Hockey League in the regular season – and they’ve tried very hard to slow them down and prevent those scoring chances. It’s been a wonderful series. It really has.”

In Game 5, Washington struggled to contain Derek Stepan, who assisted on both Ranger goals.

“Stepan is really a great player,” Micheletti said. “He really is. He missed the first 12 games of the regular season for the Rangers, and the Rangers were maybe a .500 team. When he came back, the team took off and started paying better hockey. With Derek, he’s a key guy in their penalty kill. He’s on the top penalty-killing twosome. He’s on every power play. And then he’s really one of the great set-up men in the National Hockey League with the way he passes the puck. He’s such an extremely smart player. He uses his smarts to make up for his lack of speed. He doesn’t have great speed, but he’s a very intelligent player.

“They needed somebody to step up tonight,” Micheletti continued. “They just needed somebody to get there. (Rick) Nash has been playing really well. Nash has played as well as anybody on the team but (is) having trouble scoring goals, as has the rest of the team. So they needed somebody else to step up and get something going tonight. It was Stepan with the set up.”

Micheletti believes the Rangers need to be a little more decisive offensively. Because the Capitals keep blocking shots, the Rangers need to shoot the puck quicker. That’s how Kreider tied the game to force overtime.

By the same token, though, the Rangers’ all-for-one mentality is what has gotten them where they are.

“This has been kind of the mantra of the Rangers all season,” Micheletti said. “They are as unselfish a hockey team as I think I’ve ever seen. They always make the pass. Most of them are trying to set up a teammate for a goal because they’d rather do that than score themselves. A player they really miss is (Mats) Zuccarrello. He’s such an important part of that team and his personality, his perseverance, his overall ability – he hits everybody. He’s 5-6 and he’s got more courage than anybody in the league. He is (that) type of player. Many times I said, ‘Just shoot it.’ He’s got a great shot. And tonight on that particular example, Kreider could have given them an early lead if he just fired it right away, especially against that team. You’re not going to get many odd-man rushes against Washington with the way they’re playing.”

Game 6 is Sunday in Washington at 7 p.m. ET.

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