ARLINGTON, Va. – First of all, it should be noted that the player who made the New York Rangers fans go quiet actually kind of enjoyed it when they were loud.
Jason Chimera cracked a smile Thursday as he recalled the atmosphere the previous night at Madison Square Garden, when the building shook to the vibe of “Can you hear us?” and other loud chants directed at Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau was paying the price—at least in decibels—for claiming that MSG’s “reputation is far better than the actual building” and that Rangers’ fans aren’t as loud as those in the nation’s capital.
“I think it was pretty funny,” Chimera said. “A lot of guys were smiling on the bench when it first started. I think all the coaches were smiling, too. It was pretty good. The fans, they’re energetic fans, they’re very passionate people. It was a pretty unique moment. It was one of those that kind of sticks in your mind. You knew they were going to be loud. It was a great night. It was pretty electric in there and you wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Boudreau after the game admitted he might have made a mistake by riling up the New York fans, and he had Chimera to thank for the comments not turning into a source of blame for a Capitals loss. The veteran left wing scored the biggest goal of his NHL career deep into the second overtime to give Washington a 4-3 win and a 3-1 lead in the series, with a get the clincher in Game 5 at home on Saturday.
“I love it when guys that don’t get all the attention for the most part are put in the spotlight in a positive way,” Boudreau said. “I think everybody deserves their spot in the sun. Jason works pretty hard and he cares an awful lot.”
The Capitals scored three times in the third period to make up a 3-0 deficit against a team that was 29-0-0 this season when leading after two. Washington didn’t overcome a three-goal deficit to win at any time in the regular season—and they hadn’t scored more than two goals in any game in the Rangers series.
Looking for inspiration between the second and third periods, the Capitals didn’t have to think very hard. The San Jose Sharks had a four-goal comeback victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
“We just talked about the San Jose game the night before, that it has happened recently,” said Eric Fehr, who made his series debut in place of injured forward Mike Knuble. “We wanted to change a few things with the way our team is playing, and I think we did a good job of adjusting.”
Alexander Semin got the Capitals on the board, and rookie Marcus Johansson knocked in two goals to tie the score. Then came the long wait through the ebb-and-flow of overtime hockey before Chimera’s goal in the game’s 93rd minute, when he fortuitously had a rebound swept his way in a puck-clearing attempt by Rangers forward Marian Gaborik.
“There’s nothing like quieting the building when you score that goal,” Chimera said.
There’s a two-day break between Games 4 and 5, and it’s just as well after Wednesday’s marathon. Chimera didn’t get to sleep until 4:30 a.m. or so, only to have his three-year-old and his eight-month-old knocking on his door about two hours later.
“The three-year-old’s pretty pumped up,” Chimera said. “He just knew Dad scored. That’s it.”
The Rangers could only take solace in knowing that they had the Capitals beat.
“We know we can play those guys,” Gaborik said. “We can beat them, we know that. We just have to have a good start and just totally put this game behind us and go there to win one game.”
The victory helped ease some—but not all—of the angst for Capitals fans, who are well aware that the franchise has blown 2-0 series leads four times in best-of-sevens. Washington was also up 3-1 in the first round against Montreal last year before losing three straight.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Chimera said. “But every year’s a different team, different time. We have a whole new leadership … and just guys who do the job.”
If the Capitals don’t win Saturday, they’ll have to go back to New York for Game 6—and put up with more MSG madness.
“Obviously we don’t want to go back there,” Chimera said. “Any time you have a chance to finish a team off, you want to finish them off. They’ll be just as loud if we go back there again. They’re passionate people. Rangers fans don’t forget very easily.”
Just don’t count an any more MSG bulletin board material from Boudreau. On Thursday, the coach didn’t even want to comment on the arena’s ice—which deteriorated throughout the long game and made it tougher to fluidly move the puck.
“I’m not talking about any ice conditions or anything,” Boudreau said. “It was the same for both teams.”
Notes: Knuble skated before the Capitals’ optional practice and said he could be a game-time decision Saturday. While the Capitals haven’t revealed his injury, he appeared to get struck on the hand by a shot in Game 3. He kept his hands in his pockets while talking to reporters. He said he definitely will play again this post-season. … D Dennis Wideman spoke for the first time since being hospitalized for more than a week with a leg injury. He has been skating regularly the last few days. “Hopefully before the end of next week I’ll be out practicing with the guys,” he said.