They were once known as the "Young Guns," a nickname that reflected both their thrilling style of hockey and a limitless future.
It hasn't worked out that way for the Capitals' Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Those four men have endured so much heartache and change in recent years, the moniker has long been consigned to the dustbin.
But the quartet remains the backbone of a team that still believes it can win a Stanley Cup. On Saturday afternoon, in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers, they showed it again. Ovechkin scored in the first period, Backstrom did the same in the second and Green provided the game-winner on a power-play goal with 5:48 to play that gave Washington a 3-2 victory.
"Young Guns? Not so young any more," Green quipped. "But we needed to step up. It was important that we got a win here in our building and that it be the guys that need to start scoring. Alex is one of them. Myself and Nicky."
The Caps evened this best-of-seven series 2-2. The next game is Monday night in New York at Madison Square Garden with a Game 6 now guaranteed back in the District on Wednesday.
Washington dominated the first period with 14 shots on goal to New York's three. An early power play led to seven Caps shots. It took a spectacular save by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (23 saves) on a tipped shot by Ovechkin at the right doorstep to keep the game scoreless. But Ovechkin finally broke through at 12:43 of the first after rookie forward Chris Kreider's ugly turnover resulted in a point shot that slipped off the glove of Lundqvist and into the net.
That lead lasted just 70 seconds into the second period, however. Artem Anisimov was left alone in front with Washington forward Brooks Laich and slammed home a rebound goal. After a penalty kill ignited the crowd in the second period, however, Backstrom took over. He drilled Anisimov to the ice with a hit to recover possession in the offensive zone, worked the puck around to teammate Jason Chimera and was in front of the net to receive Chimera's pass. A quick wrist shot over Lund?qvist's right shoulder made it 2-1.
But New York answered again -- and in a particularly brutal way. On an expected icing call, defenseman Dennis Wideman didn't skate back to touch up the puck, assuming partner Jeff Schultz would do so. Anisimov beat both and hit a cutting Marian Gaborik, whose goal tied it at 2-2.
"Bad luck at some points of the game is going to happen," Laich said. "It's how you respond to it. We weren't going to let that deter us."
After a cautious first 10 minutes of the third period, the Caps earned a break when John Carlson drew a slashing penalty. Wideman won a battle for a puck along the left boards and sent a pretty pass across to Green, who waited on a defender to go down for a block, deftly skated to the side and powered a shot past Lundqvist.
"This is what we needed," Green said. "We didn't want to shoot ourselves in the foot and have to have our backs up against the wall and be a desperate hockey team [Monday]. Now we can go into their building and hopefully steal it."