Listen, people: if someone tries to tell you that compressing ice time is a way to make your players too tired, and that as playoff games go longer and longer, the team with the shorter bench is more likely to lose, maybe don't listen to him? Maybe that guy's a dick.
Last night, Ryan McDonagh played 53 fucking minutes and 17 fucking seconds in the same fucking hockey game, good for 20th all-time on the NHL's single-game ice time list (since the stat started getting recorded in 1987). Along with McDonagh's performance, Marc Staal's 49:34 (43rd on that same list), Dan Girardi's 44:26, Michael Del Zotto's 43:33, and even forward Ryan Callahan's 41:48 all surpassed the highest ice time of any Capital, Dennis Wideman's 40:42. Meanwhile, no Capital saw less than erstwhile Hershey Bear Keith Aucoin, who played 17:21, and on the other bench sat Mike Rupp, who saw 15:45, John Mitchell, who saw 13:54, and defenseman Stu Bickel, 16.7% of his team's defensive corps, played only 3:24 (all in the first two periods), 1.5% of his team's defensive time on ice.
And yet. When the Rangers looked up from the 20th longest game in the National Hockey League's 95-year history, when the curtain finally came down on their franchise's longest game since before the beginning of World War II, it was the bruised, bloody, and battered, but hardly beaten, Blueshirts who came away with the win. At the end of the day (well, really, it was at the beginning of the following day by then, wasn't it?), it was Marian Gaborik whose game-winning goal ultimately disappointed a Verizon Center crowd which refused to show any signs of the fatigue it no doubt felt. In the storied history of this Original Six franchise, only Fred Cook, scoring with 28 seconds left in the third OT in Montréal on March 26, 1932, has won it for the Rangers later in a game than Gaborik did last night.
Moreover, the longer the game went, the more in control the Rangers seemed. I'd have thought that, as the game progressed into hours reserved for only the most memorable playoff nights, the players with ice times that begin with 3 would have the jump on the players with ice times that begin with 4. But instead, the higher the numeral preceding "OT" in the on-screen graphic was, the more the Rangers had control of the game. If I had been able to look at the game objectively, ignoring the lingering feelings of fear and doom, the 3-hour stomach ache, and the fact that I hadn't sat down since there were 5 minutes left in regulation, I probably would have noticed that the Rangers looked a lot more comfortable than the Capitals, controlled the puck a lot more, and had better chances, the more the game went on.
And finally, 95 shots on goal, 94 faceoffs, 105 hits, and 114:41 later, the Rangers had a 2-1 series lead. Doc Emrick, at the game's conclusion, said "there were 3 NHL games on the schedule tonight, 2 of them were here." Coach Tortorella, asked about the fatigue factor, said, "This is playoff hockey. To me, it's no big deal," but did at least have the pity to cancel practice today. Brian Boyle apologized to Mike Rupp for getting his ass in the way of Rupp's potential game-winner in the second OT. Ryan McDonagh said that the thing that kept him going was "knowing that the guy next to [him was] doing the same way." And, in what was my favorite post-game quote, some Caps fan on Twitter (@edmorgans) said it all: "After the Caps' loss, I tried to take a shot of bourbon to make myself feel better... Ryan Callahan blocked it."
But really, there's not a lot to be said after a game like this, other than "there is nothing in the world like playoff hockey."