By IRA PODELL, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal with 7:27 remaining snapped a tie and gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers that squared the Eastern Conference semifinal series 1-1 on Monday night.
Just under 6 minutes after Ryan Callahan got the Rangers even with a power-play goal, Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead for good after they squandered a 2-0 lead.
Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera scored first-period goals for the Capitals, who will host the next two games of the series. Washington is trying to repeat its first-round feat when it lost the series opener but rallied to beat Boston in seven games. The Capitals have earned four of their five wins in this postseason on the road.
Brad Richards had a goal and assist, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto had two assists for the top-seeded Rangers, who got forward Brian Boyle back from a three-game injury absence but couldn't turn it into a commanding lead in the series.
New York rebounded from a 14-shot performance in its series-opening win and fired 28 shots on goalie Braden Holtby. But the increase in numbers produced fewer results.
Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed two goals or fewer in six of the previous eight games and four straight, made 22 saves for the Rangers. New York had won three straight games, dating to the first round against Ottawa when Boyle sustained a concussion.
New York killed a penalty against Boyle moments after Callahan's tying goal at 6:58, but Ovechkin struck off a clean faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom during another power play. With Richards in the penalty box for holding, Ovechkin fired a shot from inside the blue line past Lundqvist to make it 3-2.
The Rangers' much-maligned power play got New York into a 2-2 tie 56 seconds after Knuble was sent off for high-sticking.
New York worked the puck around the Washington zone several times for drives by Del Zotto. The defenseman dropped down from the blue line to the right circle and let go a shot that worked its way through.
After a close-to-the-vest opener, the offenses busted out in the first period — nearly matching the goal and shot totals from the Rangers' Game 1 victory. The teams combined for four goals and 32 shots, only 14 by New York, in the Rangers' 3-1 victory.
The Capitals took their first lead of the series 12:20 in when Washington took advantage of a Rangers turnover in the offensive zone. Stu Bickel's pass was intercepted by Joel Ward at the blue line and he raced with the puck up ice. He sent a pass to the middle of the New York zone to Keith Aucoin, who quickly returned it to Ward.
Without any hesitation, Ward moved the puck to his right to Knuble, who scored his second of the playoffs into the right side of the net.
A bigger mistake directly led to Washington's second goal 4:54 later.
Shortly after Rangers rookie sensation Chris Kreider was stopped on a breakaway attempt when he left the penalty box, Washington doubled its lead.
Lundqvist went behind his net to play the puck, but gave it up when pressured by Chimera. Chimera, who scored the Capitals' lone goal in Game 1, pushed the puck in front to Matt Hendricks, who tried to score into the vacated net with his back turned to it.
Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman dove in the crease to try to block the shot, and was hit in the mouth with a stick. The puck trickled to the outside of the right post, but was banked in by Chimera off the skate of New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh to make it 2-0.
Outside of New York's 2-0 loss to Ottawa in Game 5 of the first round when the Senators scored a late empty-net goal, the Rangers hadn't trailed by more than one goal in these playoffs.
Thanks to Richards' goal with 42.4 seconds left in the first period, that deficit didn't last long.
Del Zotto made a pass from the left point down to the lower right circle to Marian Gaborik, who patiently waited and then quickly made a pass left to Richards, who scored his fourth of the playoffs into the open left side before Holtby could get across to cover it.
Neither team could score in the second period, when the Rangers held an 8-6 shots advantage after they were outshot 12-10 in the first.