Defenseman Mike Green’s power-play goal with 5:48 left in regulation Saturday lifted the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the top-seeded New York Rangers, tying their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
On the go-ahead goal, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan got knocked down along the boards and lost the puck, which went to Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman. He slid the puck over to a wide-open Green, who sent a slap shot from the right circle past goalie Henrik Lundqvist, then celebrated by slamming up against the glass.
It allowed the No. 7-seeded Capitals to make a much-needed recovery from what could have been a demoralizing setback: They lost Game 3 at home in triple overtime.
The series moves to New York for Game 5 on Monday night.
Game 6 will be at Washington on Wednesday.
Washington’s other goals Saturday came from captain Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. But only 23 seconds after Backstrom’s goal in the second period, Ovechkin’s skates left the ice as he delivered a high hit to Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, a play that resulted in a charging penalty against the two-time NHL MVP and could draw attention from the league office. In the third period, Ovechkin was treated by a trainer for a bloody upper lip.
Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist for the Rangers. New York’s other goal came from Marian Gaborik, who provided the winner after nearly 115 minutes of play in Game 3.
The teams had two days off to rest and recuperate from that marathon, which began Wednesday night and finished after midnight. The Rangers’ 2-1 victory in that game might have given them control of the series.
But anyone counting out the Capitals must have forgotten that they haven’t lost two games in a row since March 22-23. Or that they also trailed 2-1 in the first round against Boston, before eliminating the reigning NHL champion Bruins in seven games. Then there’s this: Washington is now 3-0 following OT losses this postseason.
Ovechkin’s unassisted goal put Washington ahead 1-0 at the 12:43 mark of the first period. Players from both teams were jostling for possession in a corner when Rangers rookie Chris Kreider appeared to gain control but flipped a lazy backhand into the open ice.
As it happens, the puck went to the worst place possible for the Rangers: directly to Ovechkin. He didn’t hesitate at all, sending a 40-foot slap shot right at the goal. Lundqvist appeared startled; the shot glanced off his glove and in.
Ovechkin pumped his fists, pounded his chest, then held up his left glove’s index finger, as though to remind everyone, “Hey, I still can play like a No. 1 scorer!”
His team-leading fourth goal of this postseason came shortly after the home fans’ new ritual of saluting him by counting down the last few seconds, “5-4-3-2-1!” before 8 minutes are left in a period — Ovechkin wears No. 8 — and then chanting, “Ovi! Ovi! Ovi!” It was started in Game 3 as a response to what the Rangers’ supporters did when the series opened in New York: They also would count down to the 8-minute mark of each period, but then would taunt Ovechkin.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, meanwhile, didn’t need to turn away a shot until New York’s first came from Gaborik, nearly 5½ minutes into the game. By then, Washington had taken seven shots.
At the end of the first period, the Capitals had a 14-3 edge in shots. The final tally was 26-20 in Washington’s favor.
But the Rangers scored only 70 seconds into the second period, when Anisimov found space all alone in front of Holtby, thanks to assists from Girardi and Brian Boyle. Anisimov swept around the rookie goalie and made it 1-1.
Washington became more passive, going more than 10 minutes without a shot in the second period, but still went back ahead at the 11:54 mark. Stuck in a corner, Backstrom shrugged off Anisimov, sending the Rangers player tumbling onto his backside, then tangled with Anton Stralman before passing along the back boards to Joel Ward and heading for the slot. Ward passed to Jason Chimera, who got the puck back to Backstrom, and the Swede’s shot went over Lundqvist’s right shoulder and tucked beneath the crossbar.
It was the first goal since Game 2 of the first round for Backstrom, Washington’s top center, who missed 40 games this season because of a concussion.
Less than 5 minutes later, though, New York tied it, thanks to more poor defense by Washington. Anisimov beat Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz to a puck along the boards behind Holtby — who might have missed that an official waved off icing — and passed to Gaborik right in front for an easy score.
NOTES: Ten of Washington’s 11 playoff games have been decided by one goal. … The Capitals are 6-1 this postseason when scoring a game’s first goal. … Ovechkin’s goal was his 29th in the NHL playoffs, moving him one shy of Peter Bondra’s team record.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.