NEW YORK -- The leaders of the Washington Capitals made their voices heard during the second intermission with the team trailing 3-0 to the eighth-seeded New York Rangers on Wednesday night in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
Safe to say, the message was received loud and clear.
Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson cut the lead to one with two goals in less than a minute, then Johansson scored his second career playoff goal to tie it with 7:53 remaining in regulation. That set the stage for Jason Chimera, who scored at 12:36 of the second overtime to lift the top-seeded Capitals a dramatic 4-3 victory and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
"We had a little team meeting – the leaders, they were talking to us and Ovi – and we had to step up," said Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth. "I think we weren’t very sharp in the second period, but we knew we had done it so many times in the season and we came back, and we prove it again tonight."
Was Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau breathing fire during the second intermission?
"Not really -- he was pretty calm and said let's build momentum," Chimera said. "It is a long (series) and let's just play our game. We said it again and again -- 'We've got the horsepower to do it. Let's just get one and get rolling.' We had a great effort in the third period. Once we got one we kind of felt them sit back a bit.
"Everyone does it -- when you're up 3-0 you sit back a little bit and we took advantage of it."
Chimera's goal wasn't a thing of beauty, but sometimes there's nothing prettier than an ugly goal in overtime.
The buildup to the winning goal started harmlessly enough. Chimera and Johansson crossed the Rangers blue line on a 2-on-2, but Chimera's long shot from near the boards was blocked by defenseman Bryan McCabe. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist lunged forward to glove the loose puck, but teammate Marian Gaborik beat him to it and tried to clear it to the corner.
Instead, the puck hit Chimera, fell to the ice in the crease, and Chimera slid it into the vacated net to start the celebration.
Chimera tried to put the feeling of scoring a double-OT winner into words.
"It is up there in your life. I don't know -- it is next to maybe getting married and having kids as the best thing that has happened to me," Chimera said. "I should say besides getting married. It is nice. Kids are No. 1 but this is pretty up there. It is awesome. There is no better feeling in the world."
On the flip side of that joy is the agony felt by the Rangers.
Lundqvist sat in the Rangers locker room with his head in hands, trying to come to grips with how the team let such a winnable game slip through their fingers.
"Right now, it's painful," said Lundqvist, who overcame a leg cramp and made 49 saves, including a game-saving stop in the first overtime on an Alex Ovechkin breakaway. "It is so frustrating at this point.
It's just unfortunate to have that happen in overtime. A lot of times, that's what happens. A quick play. Before you realize it, it's over."
After the two teams played their fourth scoreless first period of the series, the Rangers seized control with a dominant second period.
The game ended with a fluky goal, and the scoring started on a goal that was equally as unconventional. Artem Anisimov grabbed a loose puck from behind the net and flung it toward the crease. It deflected off the leg of Capitals forward Matt Hendricks and behind Neuvirth to give the Rangers third 1-0 lead of the series at 5:24.
The Rangers grabbed their first multi-goal lead of the series when Gaborik broke a 12-game scoring drought by slamming home a perfect backhand pass across the top of the crease from Ruslan Fedotenko to make it 2-0 at 13:40.
Before the sell-out crowd of 18,200 could sit down, Brandon Dubinsky made it 3-0 just 7 seconds later. Fedotenko took the puck off the ensuing faceoff at center ice and had his shot stopped by Neuvirth. But Fedotenko grabbed the puck behind the net and delivered another deft backhand pass, this one to Dubinsky, who buried it.
The crowd began a chant of, "Can You Hear Us?" in response to Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who said following Game 3 that the fans at MSG weren't as loud as the fans at Verizon Center.
In the end, it was a statement from the Capitals during the third period that will echo for quite some time.
"In between periods, we never gave up," said Boudreau, who used San Jose's four-goal rally against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night as inspiration. "You get one and you never know. When we got both goals really quickly, I thought we believed we were really in it."
Lost in the shuffle of Chimera's winner and the drama of a two-overtime game was the performance of Johansson, a 20-year-old rookie whose first career NHL playoff goals were by far the biggest of the season for the Capitals.
His clutch goals were reminiscent of the type of goals scored by Mike Knuble, who missed Game 4 for what is believed to be an injury to his hand suffered in Game 3.
"Marcus is getting better every game he plays," Chimera said. "He played better and better tonight and he was all over the place. He's played in all situations, which is nice and I can't say enough nice things about him."
Now the Capitals find themselves in familiar territory -- up 3-1 in a series with a potentially clinching game awaiting them in their home building. In that situation last season, the Caps lost three straight to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens and went home far earlier than anyone expected.
"It was an exciting game," Ovechkin said. "It changes our mentality right away. If we play the same way that we did in the third period in overtime, no one can stop us."