x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Washington Capitals ready for one more bite at the Big Apple

Alex Ovechkin got the Washington Capitals going again as they force a Game 7 back in New York against the Rangers for the Eastern Conference final spot against the New Jersey Devils.

Alex Ovechkin, centre, is mobbed by teammates after his early goal helped lead the Washington Capitals over the Rangers and sent the series back to New York for Game 7.
Alex Ovechkin, centre, is mobbed by teammates after his early goal helped lead the Washington Capitals over the Rangers and sent the series back to New York for Game 7.

WASHINGTON // So it all boils down to one last game for the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers - win and you are in.

They meet tomorrow in New York to determine who will face the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Capitals fought their way back into the series by beating the top seeds 2-1 to force Game 7.

No matter how seemingly devastating a defeat, in overtime or otherwise, the Capitals - from the two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin to play-off rookie goalie Braden Holtby - simply do not allow setbacks to bother them.

They regroup, get back out on the ice and follow a loss with a victory, each time by the slimmest of margins. Ovechkin rebounded from a rare zero-shot performance by scoring after 88 seconds on Wednesday night and Holtby made 30 saves.

"We're resilient," said Karl Alzner, the Washington defenceman. "We know when to battle back when we need to and have to."

The Capitals could have folded. Instead, they staved off elimination to set up tomorrow's showdown in the Big Apple.

"It's where we want to be," said Holtby, who improved to 6-0 in games immediately after losses this post-season. "We didn't expect a short series."

One other bit of proof that they know how to bounce back: they have not lost consecutive games since March 22-23.

Ovechkin's reduced role became a major talking point throughout these play-offs. Usually a 20-minute-a-game guy, he played just over 13 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 play-off games that had happened to the man they call Alex the Great. Before Wednesday's game, Ovechkin told reporters: "We just can't go home right now."

He helped make sure they of that.

A little over a minute after the opening face-off, Ovechkin dropped to a knee as he powered a slap shot just inside the right post from about 30 feet in front of Henrik Lundqvist, the goalkeeper, for his 30th career play-off goal, tying the franchise record held by Peter Bondra, and came 15 seconds after Anton Stralman, the Rangers defenceman, was sent to the penalty box for tripping Jason Chimera.

That early edge proved to be a good omen for the Capitals, who are 7-1 this post-season when scoring first - and 0-5 when their opponent scores first. In this series, all six games were won by whichever team led 1-0.

 

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