WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Forward Karl Alzner hit the nail on the head following the Washington Capitals 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was “as close to a must-win without being one as you get,” he said.
A loss would have put Dale Hunter’s club within a whisper of devastation. The Caps would have trailed the Rangers three games to one in the series, meaning a sweep of the remaining three games, two of which would be have been played on the road, would have been necessary.
Instead, Saturday’s win knotted the series at two game apiece and kept the Caps hopes of advancing very much alive.
“Everybody has their roles and you’ve seen the guys blocking shots,” Dale Hunter said. “The big guns scored some big goals and the foot soldiers blocked shots. We played good defense.”
The big guns he was talking about were Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, each of whom lit the lamp today.
“We needed that today,” rookie sensation Braden Holtby said. “Past we’ve kind of been relying on our character guys and it’s great to see those guys have good games. Especially [Mike Green] Greenie – he’s been working hard and doing all the little things right and to see it rewarded on the stat sheet is huge.”
Ovechkin got the Caps on the board first when a Rangers defensive zone turnover by Chris Kreider went right to his stick and he one timed it from the blue line just hard enough that it got tipped by Henrik Lundqvist’s glove to give the Caps the lead. Washington out shot the Rangers 14-3 in the period as they were the more desperate hockey team.
But the Rangers fought back hard in the second period.
Artem Anisimov tied the game up when he put in a puck that went off of Brooks Laich and past Holtby.
Washington was able to respond just over ten minutes later when Nicklas Backstrom got a perfect pass in front of the net by Jason Chimera to beat Lundqvist high stick side. But their lead wouldn’t last very long.
Marian Gaborik tied the game up just under five minutes later on a defensive breakdown by Dennis Wideman and Jeff Schultz to beat Holtby right in front.
Also of note in the second period: Alex Ovechkin jumped when hitting Dan Girardi and got a two minute charging call. Ovechkin said he hit Girardi in the shoulder, while Girardi said it was the head. This play could be reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
The Caps were out shot 10-6 in the period.
The third period was very even until a late slashing call on Carl Hagelin led to a Caps power play. Less than thirty seconds into the power play, Mike Green rocketed a slap shot by Lundqvist to the Caps a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. For Green it’s his second goal of the playoffs and second since returning from sports hernia surgery.
The Caps are 5 for 31 now on the power play in the playoffs and 2 for 12 in the series.
The Caps also out shot the Rangers 26-20 on the night.
“We said what we wanted to do and we went out and did it,” Alzner said. “We had that one mistake in the second period that caused [a] goal. Aside from that, we played a pretty solid game, I think.”
The rookie sensation Holtby stopped 18 shots on the way to his sixth playoff win. The 22-year-old, who was born in 1989, hasn’t lost back-to-back games in his last 27 NHL starts while the Caps as a team haven’t lost back-to-back games since March 23.
Holtby had some help though as the Caps blocked 26 shots on the night, including nine from Jeff Schultz.
“I looked up and I think the blocks at one time were 19-to-5 or something in our favor,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “I think our guys do a great job at that. It’s something that can really help you to win and sure guys will have ice bags on, but you pay the price to win.”
The Caps will head to New York on Monday, hoping to find the same fortunes as they did in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins following an equally impressive Game 4 victory in that series.
“It’s a big thing for us,” Holtby said on Saturday’s win. “Obviously we expect a long series with our group in here, grinding everything out as the last 25 minutes showed. We had a goal in mind and we accomplished it.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Karl Alzner had to say after the win.
1st 12:43 Ovechkin (4)
2nd 11:54 Backstrom (2), Chimera (2), Ward (4)
3rd 14:12 PP Green (2), Wideman (2)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Braden Holtby Postgame Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Postgame Audio
Mike Green Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio
Karl Alzner Postgame Audio