COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS POWER POLL DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
By Dan Di Sciullo
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's always a relief for an NHL coach when his team pulls out an overtime win in the playoffs, but Bruce Boudreau must have been especially pleased when Jason Chimera scored the game-winner for his Washington Capitals in double-OT on Wednesday.
Just an hour or so before Chimera delivered the win in Game 4, the Capitals were trailing the New York Rangers by a 3-0 score and Boudreau had to be wondering what role he had played in that awful start.
You see, with his penchant for delivering controversial soundbites, Boudreau is a rare breed in today's NHL. One could say the Capitals head coach is hockey's equivalent of Rex Ryan, the blustery field general of the NFL's New York Jets.
Just like Ryan, who had a star turn on HBO's Hard Knocks, Boudreau's love of foul language also made him a perfect fit for the premium cable channel's 24/7 series that chronicled the weeks leading up to Washington's Winter Classic matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Of course, also like Ryan, Boudreau can sometimes put his players in a difficult situation by giving the opposition bulletin board material. Boudreau did just that following Washington's Game 3 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"Well, the one thing, its reputation is far better than the actual building," Boudreau said. "I mean, it's nothing. The locker rooms are horrible. The benches are horrible. There's no room for anything. But the reputation of being in Madison Square Garden is what makes it famous. Also, our building's a lot louder, too. So I mean, they can say what they want, but it's not that loud in there."
Having been called out for their supposed lack of passion, Rangers fans were determined to be heard Wednesday, chanting slogans like "Can you hear us?" and "Shut up, Bruce" at the start of Game 4.
The MSG crowd became united in their hatred of Boudreau and, for a little while at least, the Rangers were able to turn their fans' vitriol into success on the ice.
After a scoreless first period, New York tallied three times in the second stanza to grab a 3-0 lead. The last two goals in that burst were separated by just seven seconds and the crowd noise reached a fever pitch after Brandon Dubinsky made it a three-goal game with just 6:13 left in the period.
But, just as Boudreau had inadvertently fired up the New York crowd with his insults, he was also able to rally his troops for a memorable third-period comeback. The Caps scored three times in the third and received the last two goals in that surge from Marcus Johansson to send the game to overtime.
By the time Washington had tied the score at 3-3 the crowd at the Garden was pretty much spent and the arena was downright silent when Chimera scored the game-winner at 12:36 of the second overtime. But by then, Boudreau, who had a joyous celebration on the bench following Chimera's goal, had already learned his lesson about challenging New York sports fans.
"I might have made a mistake by saying what I said," Boudreau said after the game. "Let's leave it at that. Let's let the players decide this and not worry about how I felt or what the crowd felt like."
Of course, the loss was a crushing one for the Rangers, and not just because they blew a 3-0 lead, but also due to how the game-winning goal came about.
New York's winger Marian Gaborik scored his first goal of the series during the second period on Wednesday, but the embattled winger will be remembered more for his blunder on the OT winner.
Johansson had a shot from the right circle that was partially blocked, causing the puck to roll slowly towards the net. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was about to pounce on the disc for a faceoff when Gaborik, a player hardly known for his defensive prowess, made an unspeakable error. Gaborik beat Lundqvist to the puck, but instead of clearing it he flicked the disc into an onrushing Chimera, who was behind Lundqvist for an easy shot into the empty net.
It was just another reason for Rangers fans to pile on Gaborik, who has underachieved for someone making $7.5 million a year.
There is no arguing that the Game 4 loss was a crushing defeat for the Rangers, but they do not have an impossible task in coming back from a 3-1 series deficit. Outside of Washington's 2-0 victory in Game 2, every game in this series has been decided by just one goal and the Caps needed overtime to record their other two wins.
In part due to Boudreau's diss of MSG, there will also be a great deal of pressure for the Caps to end the series Saturday in D.C. Although Wednesday's thrilling victory vindicated Boudreau, there is no way the controversial coach wants his club to be forced to play a Game 6 in the Big Apple.
And if there is more hockey to played at MSG this spring, you can bet Rangers fans will once again be out to prove Boudreau wrong.