Webster’s defines chimerical as “existing only as the product of unchecked imagination; fantastically visionary or improbable.”
Change chimerical to Chimera and the answer would be the same. For all the brilliance of snipers Alex Ovechkin and Peter Bondra, the down-low scoring wizardry of Hall of Famers Mike Gartner and Dino Ciccarelli and the sheer ice time of franchise playoff game record-holders Dale Hunter and Kelly Miller, it’s Jason Chimera who earned a place in Washington lore on Wednesday night by scoring the double-overtime goal that gave the Caps the longest victory ever in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Chimera’s good hands on the fortunate bounce behind New York goalie Henrik Lundquist should be the dagger that puts the Rangers away for good. The underdog hosts came out for the third period at Madison Square Garden up 3-0 and having not lost a lead after 40 minutes all year. Instead, rookie Marcus Johansson (two) and Alexander Semin beat Lundquist within 9:20 to force overtime.
Having rallied so courageously, the Caps should have won in the first OT but Ovechkin couldn’t get the puck up on a semi-breakaway. Instead, it was the 31-old-Chimera, he of the 12 goals per season and two in 16 previous career playoff games, who was the hero 12:36 into the second extra session.
The only longer games during the Caps’ 36 seasons were all defeats: the four-overtime heartbreakers ended by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Petr Nedved in 1996 (just 45 second shy of a fifth overtime) and the New York Islanders’ Pat LaFontaine in 1987; the triple-overtime torture test won by Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis in 2003; and the double-overtime doozy decided by the Islanders’ Brian Mullen in 1993.
I covered all four of those games which came on home ice, three at the since-demolished Capital Centre and St. Louis’ at what was then called MCI Center. Maybe the Caps feeling less pressure as the road team made a difference on Wednesday. That and the Rangers knowing they had blown a three-goal lead in the third period.
In any case, Chimera’s improbable, or should I say chimerical, goal has the Caps in control of the series which they can wrap up Saturday at home. The odds of the Rangers coming back to win it now are chimerical as in “existing only as the product of unchecked imagination.”
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.