Caps force a Game 7 against Rangers
Washington - Alex Ovechkin rebounded from a rare zero-shot performance by scoring after 88 seconds Wednesday night, Braden Holtby made 30 saves, and the Washington Capitals recovered from a potentially devastating loss by beating the top-seeded New York Rangers 2-1 to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Two nights after blowing a lead in the last 10 seconds of regulation and losing in overtime, the No. 7-seeded Capitals showed immediately they were over it. Ovechkin's early power-play goal and Jason Chimera's second-period score were just enough for the unflappable playoff rookie Holtby.
The teams meet in New York on Saturday night to determine who will face the New Jersey Devils in the conference finals.
With his mom covering her eyes in the stands, Holtby made only one error, and it came with 50.5 seconds left - a goal that was credited to Marian Gaborik and deflected off a skate and someone in a scrum in the crease. Forgive any Capitals fans for thinking, "Uh, oh. Here we go again." But Washington held on this time.
Ovechkin's reduced role became a major talking point throughout these playoffs: Usually a 20-minute-a-game guy, he played as few as 13 ½ minutes in Game 2 against New York. He also came up quiet in Game 5 on Monday night, with no shots on goal, only the second time in 49 career playoff games that had happened to the man they call Alex the Great.
That 3-2 victory for the Rangers was the sort of setback that can be tough to set aside. New York scored one power-play goal to tie it with 7.6 seconds left in the third period, and another to win it about 1 ½ minutes into overtime.
The Capitals, though, staved off elimination and are proving to be quite adept at bouncing back. They're 4-0 in games immediately after overtime losses in these playoffs; they haven't lost consecutive games since March 22-23; and Holtby is 6-0 after any defeat this postseason, his first in the NHL.
Before Wednesday's game, Ovechkin told reporters: "We just can't go home right now."
He helped make sure they didn't yet.
Fewer than 1 ½ minutes after the opening faceoff, the two-time NHL MVP dropped to a knee as he powered a slap shot just inside the right post from about 30 feet in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
It was Ovechkin's 30th career playoff goal, tying the franchise record held by Peter Bondra, and came 15 seconds after Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman was sent to the penalty box for tripping Chimera.
Another miscue followed: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh wasted a chance to clear the puck, instead sending it along the boards right to a Capitals player. That giveaway led to a series of crisp passes by the Capitals - Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were credited with assists - and an animated earful for McDonagh from Rangers coach John Tortorella.
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