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CAPITALS: Mike Green’s Power Play Winner Evens Series With Rangers
WASHINGTON – When the Washington Capitals entered the first of what would become a five-year playoff streak, the hope was that the nucleus of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green would be able to lead the team to sustained, continued success.
The trio’s presence has manifested itself in the form of Southeast Division championships and postseason runs, but they’ve never been able to lead the Capitals past the Eastern Conference semifinals.
They didn’t do so Saturday at Verizon Center, for it was just the fourth game of a best-of-seven series against the New York Rangers. They did, however, go a long way in making sure that their window of opportunity didn’t close, with each scoring a goal in a 3-2 victory.
“We needed to step up,” said Green, whose power play goal with 3:17 to play was the difference. “It was important that we got a win tonight here in our building and that it be the guys that need to start scoring. Alex is one of them, myself and Nicky. So it was good.”
Green, who battled a groin injury for much of the season, scored his first goal in exactly six months when he did so in the first round against Boston. The Capitals’ power play, stagnant at 1-for-10 on the series, wasn’t one of their strong points during the season, either.
But the two came together 27 seconds after the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin was sent to the box for slashing on John Carlson, a penalty that was evident when Carlson’s stick broke in two.
Players from both teams were in a scrum along the halfboards when New York’s Ryan Callahan tried to get the puck out of the zone. Instead, Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman corralled it at the left point and sent it across the blue line to Green, who had Ryan McDonagh in front of him.
McDonagh considered laying out to block the shot but thought the better of it when Green cocked his stick, and the Capitals defenseman sent the puck past Callahan and to the left of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“He’s been wanting to score really bad and I don’t think he scored as much as he’d like to,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It was awesome. I don’t even know if he was trying to necessarily score on that or shoot for a rebound, but it was great that it went in, great timing. It was a nice time to get a power play, too.”
Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game 12:43 in, taking advantage of a turnover when rookie Chris Kreider tried to clear the puck from a scrum. He let go of a slap shot from the high slot, beating Lundqvist high and glove side.
Backstrom had to work harder for his. With Artem Anisimov bearing down on a check nearly 12 minutes into the second period, Backstrom instead elbowed the Rangers winger out of his way, then sent the puck around the boards to Jason Chimera. He went back into the slot, took the pass and took a shot that went over the right shoulders of both a kneeling Anton Stralman and an out-of-place Lundqvist.
Backstrom’s goal topped one by Anisimov that came 1:10 into the period. It was later answered by Marian Gaborik, who tapped in a pass from Anisimov from behind the net that Capitals goalie Braden Holtby thought came after an icing call.
Wideman, who went to play the long pass by Marc Staal, didn’t get there in time, and Anisimov had little difficulty kicking it back out to Gaborik, who scored the winner in the third overtime in Game 3.
“I had my hand up,” Holtby said. “I guess the guy behind the play waved it off, so that confuses me, because I was looking for a stick. But that happens. That happens in a hockey game, and it unfortunately confused me and Wides on the play. They got a good break and scored a goal.”
The Capitals’ goalie had only 18 saves, down significantly from the 47 he made in the nearly twice-as-long previous game. He was greatly aided by his defense; the Capitals blocked 26 shots, including nine from Jeff Schultz, compared to the Rangers’ seven.
Lundqvist made 24 saves in the defeat, with Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each taking four shots on goal.
The series will shift back to New York on Monday, where one team will push the other to the brink of elimination in Game 5.
“It’s good,” Alzner said. “It’s really good. It’s one of those pivotal games that I think changes the whole look of the series. If they would’ve went up 3-1, it would’ve been extremely tough. It’s as close to a must-win without being one as you can get.”
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