Late power-play goal evens series vs. Rangers
NEW YORK -- It was a harrowing stretch of hockey for the Capitals. The New York Rangers, fueled by a howling Madison Square Garden crowd, drilled one Washington player after another into the boards, a ferocious forecheck feeding on itself until a goal appeared inevitable early in Monday's Eastern Conference semifinal contest.
But these Caps haven't cracked yet during the Stanley Cup playoffs. They endured the onslaught, and veterans Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera silenced the fans with two first-period goals. Star winger Alex Ovechkin eventually scored the game-winner at 12:33 of the third period as Washington prevailed 3-2 in Game 2 of this best-of-seven series.
The two teams head to Washington on Wednesday night for Game ?3 at Verizon Center with the series tied 1-1. Rookie goalie Braden Holtby finished with 26 saves on 28 New York shots as he saw far more work than in Game 1, when the Rangers managed just 14 shots on goal yet won 3-1.
"It was a big character win," Holtby said. "I think we played definitely more our style of game and got some huge games from a couple guys and were lucky to come out on top."
Ovechkin's goal came on the power play after a faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom.
The Caps were able to use New York's aggressive forecheck against it midway through the second period -- and it was the fourth line that did it. Finally with some open ice, Keith Aucoin and Joel Ward played give-and-go on the left wing while Knuble was driving hard at the far post. Ward hit him with a pass for a tap-in past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist and a 1-0 lead at 12:20 of the period.
"We made them chase us a little bit, and they had to open it up," Caps center Brooks Laich said. "And we did a good job, for the most part, of protecting the lead. I'd like to think when we score first we're pretty tough to beat."
The ferocious forecheck continued for New York, but Washington took advantage again at 17:14 on a wild sequence. A Caps power play was ending when a puck hopped over the stick of defenseman John Carlson just as Rangers forward Chris Kreider escaped the penalty box, where he was serving a too-many-men-on-the-ice call. But Holtby stoned Kreider on his breakaway, and the puck was sent all the way down ice. Lundqvist tried to play it behind his net -- but the ultra-fast Chimera got there sooner than expected. He took the puck from Lundqvist and pushed a pass in front to Matt Hendricks, whose between-the-legs wizardry sent it back to Chimera at the right post. He jammed a shot home for a 2-0 advantage.
But the Rangers' forecheck paid dividends late in the period. A poor clear and an odd line change by Laich gave New York its chance. A quick pass from defenseman Michael Del Zotto to forward Marian Gaborik led to a shot fake and then an easy pass across Holtby's crease for a Brad Richards tap-in goal. That came with just 42 seconds left in a wild first period.
Later, Ryan Callahan tied the game for the Rangers on the power play at 6:58 of the third period when he deflected home a shot by Del Zotto.