Alex Ovechkin played a career playoff low 13:36.
Under Bruce Boudreau this wasn’t a good sign, but the Caps had four lines rolling tonight, not just one and when it came to crunch time, Alex Ovechkin came through with a power play goal late in the third period to give the Caps a 3-2 win and even the series at one.
“He’s coaching the situations,” Caps veteran Mike Knuble said on Dale Hunter not playing Ovechkin as much. “He’s playing certain guys at other times more. If were down a goal, he’s [Ovechkin] going to be our main guy, he’s going every other shift. If were up a goal then Dale tends to lean on other guys and that’s the way it is….for now it’s working and we’re going to run with it.”
For the first time in the series the Caps led and they led early putting two goals up in just over the first 17 minutes of the game to get a big 2-0 lead on the road.
“That was big,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said on the good start. “It was funny in the dressing room here Brooksie [Laich] said we needed to get a two goal lead to start and we got that and held on. That’s big by two guys, two very character guys in [Mike] Knuble and [Jason] Chimera and that was the difference in the game.”
For Knuble, his goal was very pretty, something you don’t usually think of when thinking of a team’s fourth line, but it got the Caps going. Joel Ward started a break into their offensive zone off a Rangers turnover, found Keith Aucoin above the circles who passed it back to Ward and found a cutting Mike Knuble for nice little tic-tac-toe to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.
Just under five minutes later the Caps struck again. This time it started when John Carlson couldn’t hold on to the puck while the Rangers Chris Kreider jumped out of the box for a wide open breakaway on Braden Holtby. Holtby stuffed Kreider which led to the Caps transitioning up the ice and Jay Beagle dumping the puck in. While Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist tried to play the puck behind the net, Matt Hendricks came flying in there, stole the puck, threw it out front to Jason Chimera, who somehow knocked it by a crowd of Rangers and a diving Lundqvist into the net to give the Caps a 2-0 advantage.
“I just poked it towards it to the net,” Chimera said on his goal. “I think it took a railroad track on [Rangers Ryan] McDonogh’s skate there and went into the net. So it was nice to see it go in.”
The Rangers came back though before the period was over. With only 43 seconds left, and with the teams playing 4 on 4 due to penalties, Marian Gaborik threaded the needle finding a cutting Brad Richards who had plenty to shoot at to make it 2-1 heading to the second.
Both teams were even in the second as the Caps held a one goal lead heading to the third, but a Mike Knuble high sticking call just over six minutes into the final period changed everything. Fifty-six seconds later Rangers Captain Ryan Callahan deflected a Michael Del Zotto shot in and by Braden Holtby to tie things at two. That’s how it stayed until the Caps had two back to back power plays. The first one the Caps couldn’t score on, the second one, Alex Ovechkin made the Rangers pay. Four seconds into it, Nicklas Backstrom won the face off right to Ovechkin who fired it through traffic right down the middle of the ice beating Henrik Lundqvist and giving the Caps a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t lose.
“Nicky [Backstrom] wins the face off, and I kind of turn and felt like I was going to have some pressure, but when I turned I saw that nobody came to me. [Troy Brouwer] did a great job, goes to the front of the net and it was kind of a lucky shot.”
Braden Holtby had a great bounce back game stopping 26 shots and the two goals he gave up, he had no chance on.
“You look at the difference in the two games. We hit two posts last game, and they hit two this game. That’s how close it is. We did a fairly good job for the most part the last little while there. I think we want to bear down hard around the puck in the last few seconds there. Myself, I’d like to battle to see that deflection that went off the post a bit more, but the hockey gods were on our side tonight.”
He did have some help as the Caps blocked 24 shots to the Rangers 14 and did a great job at clearing out the crease all game. The Caps also ended up with 25 shots on goal, seven more than last game and went 1 for 3 on the power play. Both teams are 1 for 7 on the power play in the series.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit, and it’s great to get a goal on the power play,” Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom said. “We’ve just got to keep going. It’s just one game, but hopefully we can put some pressure on them when we go back to DC.”
The Caps will have a great chance to “keep it going” as they head back to DC to play the next two at Verizon Center and a chance to really make a dent in the series.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Jason Chimera & Mike Knuble had to say following the win.
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Postgame Audio
Braden Holtby Postgame Audio
Jason Chimera Postgame Audio
Mike Knuble Postgame Audio