New York Rangers 2, Washington Capitals 1 (3OT) (NYR leads the series, 2-1)
Phoenix Coyotes 0, Nashville Predators 2 (PHO leads the series, 2-1)
Those Who Shined
1. Henrik Lundqvist, Goaltender, New York Rangers
If you wanted more reason to believe that Henrik Lundqvist qualifies to be a Hart Trophy Finalist, this was the game you needed to see. He and the Capitals’ rookie Braden Holtby battled for nearly 115 minutes in what quickly became an epic three overtime fight to the finish at the Verizon Center Wednesday night. Lundqvist stopped 45 of 46 shots in the affair for an astonishing 97.8 save percentage, which was quite simply one of the top goaltending performances on the road this season. Overall, he has now faced 260 shots in just nine playoff games, but is giving up only 1.77 goals per game. It’s hard to find many guys a team would rather have on their side at this point in the year, and New York will need him to be excellent moving forward — that has become evident in the first three games of the series.
2. Pekka Rinne, Goaltender, Nashville Predators
Facing a potential three-game deficit in the second round of the NHL playoffs, all-star netminder Pekka Rinne stepped up for one of his finest starts of the season. He sent away all 32 shots that the Coyotes put on net en route to his first career playoff shutout and it was exactly what the Predators needed to change the momentum in the series. This performance came after Rinne surrendered a disappointing nine goals in the first two games in Phoenix, which made the people of Nashville desperate for a rebound. Following Wednesday’s effort, his goals against average sits at 2.51 — due in large part to the last two starts –, so he will certainly look to lower that if the Preds want a chance in the series.
3. Marian Gaborik, Right Wing, New York Rangers
Sure, the goaltending was the overarching storyline of Wednesday’s showdown in the nation’s capital; but, I have to provide some love for the man that sealed the deal for the Rangers. Marian Gaborik, one of New York’s most prolific scorers, hadn’t recorded a goal since game one of their series with the Ottawa Senators until he tapped home the winning shot in the third overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead on both the scoreboard and in the series. He also picked up an assist in the contest, which gives him four points in the first three games of this series with the Capitals — already more points than he recorded in seven games with Ottawa. The ‘Big Apple’ will have a much better chance of celebrating a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals if this level of play can be sustained.