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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 1:12 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin: 'We just can't go home right now'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin will all skate in their 50th career playoff games when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (7:30 p.m, ET, NBCSN, CBC).

In their first 49 playoff games, all with Washington and all since 2008, Ovechkin, Laich and Semin have faced elimination in a Game 6 three times. The Caps forced a Game 7 in all three instances.

They have no choice but to make it 4-for-4 if they hope to extend their 2012 postseason as they trail the Rangers 3-2 with Game 6 at Verizon Center.

"You don't want the season to start over for next year," Ovechkin said. "And you don't want season be ended tonight. It's going to be do-or-die. Right now everybody knows and everybody understands we just can't go home right now.

"I don't think we deserve to end the season. Everybody knows, I think, we [have a] good hockey club. We beat the Stanley Cup champion in Game 7 at home. … Last game they got a little luck… Tonight is going to be different game and tonight is going to be a much different atmosphere."

The Capitals will look to take advantage of the home crowd just as they did at the start of Game 4 when they outshot the Rangers 14-3 in the first period and led 1-0 at the first intermission.

The Rangers replied with a strong start of their own in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, outshooting the Caps 17-4 in the opening 20 minutes and grabbing a 1-0 lead.

Washington is 6-1 in the playoffs when scoring first; 0-5 when allowing the first goal.

"Tonight being down a game, we’re going to be desperate and we're going to throw everything at them," Troy Brouwer said. "We've played good in the games when we've been down in the series, and tonight especially being at home, we should have a lot of jump, we should have a lot of excitement in the building and we should be able to come out hard."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 12:00 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Beagle doesn't practice, but Capitals say he'll play

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals have long described Jay Beagle as a teammate who treats every practice like a Game 7.

But with the Capitals looking to extend their Eastern Conference Semifinal series to a decisive seventh game, Beagle was the lone absentee from Washington's morning skate ahead of Game 6 Wednesday against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"He's fine," coach Dale Hunter said of his third line center. "I'm just resting his legs… He's fine. He's going to play."

Beagle blocked a shot from Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman early in the second period of Game 5 that got a piece of his leg. Beagle was limping after the blocked shot and played under 15 minutes for just the third time in his last 14 games.

"He's been big for us," Troy Brouwer said. "He's been great on the penalty kill, he's our only right-handed centerman and he's taken a lot of draws and done real well in that aspect. He does a great job out there, he kind of gets overlooked on this team, but he deserves a lot of credit for how he's played so far in the playoffs."

Added Karl Alzner: "Jay's been logging tons of minutes and he's been doing all the key things that have been helping us succeed, the little areas that a lot of times go unnoticed but are extremely important. Regardless of what happens, somebody else has a chance to do it now if he's not in the lineup."

While Hunter dismissed the possibility of Beagle missing Game 6, it appears that a contingency plan may be in place.

Veteran Jeff Halpern came off the ice Wednesday morning at the same time as the rest of the Caps' regulars instead of staying out for extra work with the healthy scratches.

Halpern has been a healthy scratch in 19 straight games dating back to the regular-season and in 24 of Washington's last 27 games.

The 36-year-old declined to comment on his status for tonight. If Beagle cannot play, Halpern could serve as the Caps' only right-handed center. Halpern led the Caps and was fifth in the League with a 58.3 faceoff percentage during the regular-season.

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 4:12 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Third period full of missed opportunities for Caps

ARLINGTON, Va. -- If the Washington Capitals fall to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, players and management alike will likely spend the summer wondering how things could have been different had they held on to their 2-1 lead in the final seconds of Game 5.

Beginning with a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, followed by Brad Richards' tying-goal with 6.6 seconds to play and Marc Staal's game-winning tally 95 seconds into overtime, the Caps potentially saw their season fall by the wayside in a stunning 3-2 OT loss.

While it is hard to ignore how Game 5 ended and the series of events that led to its conclusion, the Capitals acknowledged Tuesday that their margin of error in the final minute of regulation should never have been so thin.
From the time John Carlson's power-play goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 4:20 of the third period, the Caps had ample opportunity to double their lead.

Less than three minutes after Carlson's goal, Nicklas Backstrom broke free from Dan Girardi and went one-on-one against Henrik Lundqvist. Backstrom's backhand attempt grazed off of Lundqvist's shoulder and hit the crossbar.

"I should have scored," Backstrom said Tuesday. "It would have been a different game."

The same can be said if Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin had converted on a two-on-one with seven minutes to play in regulation. Instead, Girardi got a stick in the way of Semin's pass to Ovechkin, and a shot on goal was never even attempted.

Ditto for a Capitals' three-on-one with just over five minutes to play when the trio of Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson failed to get a shot on goal. This time it was Staal who got a piece of Laich's intended pass to Ovechkin as Washington gained the blue line.

"We should've executed better," said Johansson, who has gone seven games without a point and is last among Washington forwards with a minus-6 rating in the playoffs.

"[Backstrom's chance] is just bad luck -- it hits the crossbar. But we had a couple two-on-ones and three-on-ones where we should've scored and we didn't even get a shot on net. That's not good enough. We have enough skill and good hockey players to do something better with that. That's something we have to get better at."

The Rangers outshot the Capitals 38-18 in Game 5, and just as the Capitals are left to wonder what could have been had they converted their third period scoring chances, New York likely would have been wondering the same had Washington held on for a 2-1 win.

"They played really well early on, but as the game wore on I thought we got better," Laich said. "They had more shots, but we might have had the better scoring chances. Nicky [hitting the crossbar] and Alex, and Alex had a two-on-one, and we had a three-on-one which I made a bad play on. So we're going to commit to defense again and try and get the offense, and when we do get those chances we'll try to capitalize on it."

"We need to bear down," said Mike Green, who played a team-high 24:47 in Game 5. "When we get opportunities to score, we've got to put it in the net. I think that would have been the difference in the game… It's just [about] us making the right play. Three-on-one, you should be able to get a shot at least. Their D-men made great plays, but we've got to do better."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 3:08 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps used to bouncing back from tough OT defeats

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Before falling in overtime in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals had already dropped three games in OT in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Following each defeat, though, the Caps have shown the type of resiliency they admit was often missing in playoffs past.

There was a series-opening 1-0 OT loss in Round 1 against the Boston Bruins. The Caps responded with a double overtime win of their own in Game 2.

There was a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6 against the Bruins, in which the Caps blew an opportunity to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions on home ice. The Caps responded with an overtime win in Boston in Game 7.

Then there was a 2-1 triple overtime loss against the Rangers in Game 3 of their second-round series, in which Washington came up short in the third-longest game in franchise history. The Caps responded with a home win in Game 4 three days later.

While Washington's first three OT losses this postseason were all disheartening in their own right, Monday's 3-2 loss in New York may top them all.

The Caps held a 2-1 lead in the final minute of Game 5 before a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward sent the Rangers to the power play. New York's Brad Richards tied the game with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation, while Marc Staal netted the game-winning-goal just 95 seconds into OT.

"We were close, but we can't think that way," said defenseman John Carlson, who was on the ice for both the game-tying and winning goals. "We're all still positive here. We know that in the last series we missed an opportunity in Game 6 to close it out at home. [Monday] we missed an opportunity to go up in the series 3-2. But all we're worried about right now is winning [Wednesday]."

The Capitals met at their Northern Virginia practice facility Tuesday to watch video, but did not skate. Of the six players made available to the media, all six echoed the sentiments of coach Dale Hunter and said of the Game 5 loss that "stuff happens," and "that’s hockey."

No matter when or how they have lost in these playoffs, the Capitals have been quick to brush off any disappointment, and dating back to the regular season they have not lost back-to-back games since March 22-23.

"I think we control our emotions a little better," said forward Brooks Laich who has played in all 49 of Washington's playoff games since 2008.

"Even when we win, we're not bouncing off the ceiling -- it's more of a business atmosphere. And when we lose, we know that we can bounce back. We have a very good hockey team, so we never get too high, we never get too low, we just stay pretty composed. A lot of that comes from Dale … he's not panicking."

Added Hunter: "We have to [respond]. It's hockey. The guys are ready to battle [in Game 6] and that's what it's all about when you play in the Stanley Cup  playoffs. ... The guys are resilient; they'll bounce back and have a great game."

Now the Capitals have no choice but to come back from their latest OT setback. The Caps must beat New York in Game 6 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC) to extend the series. Game 7 would be Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"We've just got to put it behind us and come out harder," said Nicklas Backstrom who added that this latest OT loss may be tougher than the triple OT loss in Game 3.

"I think so, but you've just got to forget about it. It's bad luck, I think, it's just six seconds left and the puck was bouncing all over the place. I guess that happens in hockey sometimes, and you've just got to bounce back."
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps doing their best to block shots

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers at their own game Saturday, blocking 26 New York shots, while having just seven of their own blocked by the Rangers.

The Caps beat the Rangers 3-2 to even their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at two games apiece. Game 5 is Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"We know that they can block shots very well and they create offense from blocking it too," Caps coach Dale Hunter said Sunday. "When we get it blocked, they go down the other way on an odd-man rush. So we say that you just have to miss the first guy and get it by them, and if you miss the net so be it as long as it doesn't get blocked."

In Game 4 the Caps kept the Rangers from getting in the shooting lanes by creating space in the offensive zone with plenty of puck movement. Specifically, the Capitals looked to their blue liners.

"They like to play tight in their D-zone," Troy Brouwer said, "their forwards collapse a little bit and so our D-men have a little bit more time at the points. So if we can get pucks back to the point and go D-to-D and stretch them out a little bit, it gives our D-men a better lane to the net. If we have nothing, we can just throw it down behind the net and try to get a little more room on the cycle."

The Capitals acknowledge that they have relied on their cycle game and their play below the goal line more against the Rangers than they did in the first round against the Boston Bruins.

Washington's first two goals in Saturday's Game 4 win -- tallies from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- both came from sustained offensive zone pressure that resulted in the Rangers collapsing down low.

Ovechkin opened the scoring seconds after Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson battled for possession in the corner with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider. Kreider eventually turned the puck over to Ovechkin who made it 1-0 Washington. 

"Callahan was in the corner, Kreider was right down in the pile, both D-men were in the pile, and I think that [Brian] Boyle was the lone guy in the slot," Brouwer said. "That leaves a lot of room in the slot. So it was a timely turnover that the guys caused and Ovi just happened to be in a good spot."

While the Caps' combination of puck movement from their defensemen and the play of their forwards below the faceoff circles kept the Rangers from blocking more than seven shots, the Capitals themselves also got in the way of 26 shots from New York.

Jeff Schultz led the Caps with nine blocked shots, as Washington passed New York for the overall team lead in blocked shots this post-season (244-232).
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter sticking with same lineup for Game 5

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Not looking to change a winning formula, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter is expected to go with the same lineup in Game 5 against the New York Rangers that produced Saturday's 3-2 win.

The Eastern Conference Semifinal series is even at two games apiece with Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

When the series returned to Washington for Game 3 last Wednesday, Hunter had Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom skate on the same line for the first time this postseason. While Hunter was satisfied with their production, the experiment was short-lived.

In Game 4, Brooks Laich returned to Hunter's No.1 line alongside Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, while Backstrom was back on the second line with Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin. The trios are expected to stay the same for Game 5.

"Brooksie and Ovi have been working pretty well together," Hunter explained. "I put Nicky there and they had some good scoring chances, but I thought that Nicky, [Chimera] and Semin, three games ago had a good game so I thought I'd go back to them."

Both lines came through offensively in Game 4 as sustained pressure from Laich and Johansson led to Ovechkin's fourth goal of the playoffs, while Chimera found Backstrom open in the slot in the second period for his second goal of the postseason. Backstrom's tally snapped a personal seven-game goalless drought.

"Playing with [Backstrom], it felt like he was back to his old self, cycling the puck down low and getting some chances," Chimera said. "With any luck, he could have had three or four goals [Saturday]. I think that was his best game since returning [from a 40-game absence March 31]. He needs that. He needs some confidence. That's a game that could spur us on and ultimately help us out, too."

While Backstrom continues to find his game, his countryman Marcus Johansson remains on the Capitals' No.1 line despite a six-game pointless streak. Johansson is also last among Washington forwards with a minus-five rating in 11 playoff games.
Below are the Capitals lines from Sunday's practice prior to the team's flight to New York.

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichMarcus Johansson
Jason ChimeraNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Matt HendricksJay BeagleTroy Brouwer
Mike Knuble- Keith AucoinJoel Ward
Mathieu PerreaultJeff HalpernMattias Sjogren

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
Roman HamrlikMike Green
Jeff SchultzDennis Wideman
John ErskineDmitry Orlov

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

'Olie the goalie' understands pain of marathon OT loss

ARLINGTON, Va. -- If anybody can relate to how Braden Holtby felt after allowing the game-winning goal in triple overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it may be Olaf Kolzig.

The Washington Capitals associate goaltending coach was watching from the press box when New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik beat Holtby at 14:41 of the sixth period to give the Rangers a 2-1 Game 3 win, and a 2-1 series lead.

It was the longest game ever played at Verizon Center, passing Game 6 of the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, when Martin St. Louis beat Kolzig at 4:03 of the third OT to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 win and eliminate the Caps from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I haven't been on the winning end of one of those," Kolzig said, "so I don't know how it feels after you win one, but I know it's pretty deflating after you lose."

The 22-year-old Holtby made a career-high 47 saves in his first ever triple-overtime game at any level and Kolzig's message is simple as the rookies looks to rebound in Game 4 Saturday.

"Just continue to play the same way," the Caps' all-time wins leader said. "That's all you can say. You're going to have games like that. You're going to have games where your team bails you out. It's just keeping your emotions in check and playing with a steady level."

Kolzig was also on the losing end of the longest game in team history, when the Caps fell 3-2 in quadruple overtime in Game 4 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We lost to Pittsburgh in four overtimes, and I think it was like 50 seconds from going to a fifth overtime," Kolzig recalled. "Petr Nedved [scored]. I still have no idea how the puck found its way in the net. You watch the replay and there's people crossing in front of each other and it found its way in the net."

The 1996 Capitals went on to lose their next two games after the quadruple-OT loss and were eliminated from the playoffs four days later.

The 2012 Caps will look to write a different script and may benefit from having two days off between Games 3 and 4 as opposed to the customary one day between games.

"The emotions you get out of [Game 3], both ways, won't be as significant as if we were playing [Friday]," Kolzig said. "Their high will come down a little bit, our low will come up a little bit, and both teams will be re-energized and rested. It's fortunate that we've got the two days in between."

With the extra day at his disposal, Hunter encouraged his team to stay away from the team's practice facility Thursday -- "no video, no nothing," he said -- with the exception of players in need of physical treatment.

"You're pretty drained after," Hunter said of the physical and mental toll a long game can take.

Like Kolzig, Hunter also played in the longest game in franchise history, collecting an assist, five shots and two penalty minutes in the four-OT loss to Pittsburgh in 1996.

"A long game like this is [tiring]," Hunter said, "but you remember [those] games when you get my age, how much fun it was playing triple overtime, what a battle it was and the sacrifices you made. You always have good memories, win or lose. It's always the battle. And the guys battled [in Game 3 Wednesday]."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 1:44 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals face another test of their mental toughness

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Since he was hired to coach the Washington Capitals in late November, former captain Dale Hunter has worked on improving his team's mental toughness.

The fruits of his labor were on display during a late-season playoff push which saw the Capitals win four of their last five games, and again during a seven-game first-round series win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The next test comes Saturday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals when the Caps will look to rebound from Wednesday's triple overtime loss in Game 3 against the New York Rangers

"We had to play some tough hockey to get into the playoffs," Hunter said. "Playing playoff hockey you have to [be able to] bounce back and be tough during the game if something happens on the ice. You go down a goal, you just keep battling and good things will happen."

In Washington's case, the Caps have now gone down a game, as the third-longest game in franchise history leaves them in a 2-1 hole in the best-of-seven series.

But for those that have been around the organization since its streak of five-straight playoff appearances began in 2008, the sense is that this year's club is better equipped to overcome a potentially deflating loss than the teams of years past.

"There's no question," said associate goaltending coach Olaf Kolzig, who acknowledged that this year's team had no choice but to become stronger mentally down the stretch.

"The adversity that we faced this year as opposed to the last two years where we basically solidified a playoff spot in January and kind of cruised into the playoffs, this year we had to scratch and claw …

"Teams that battle right to the end, if you can stay healthy and physically you're there, then you're going to have the edge over teams that solidified a spot two months in advance, and I think that's what we're experiencing, so I don’t think that we're going to be as down as maybe some other teams would be after a game like [Wednesday]."

The Presidents' Trophy winning Capitals in 2010 proved fragile in the postseason when they became the first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 first-round series lead.

The highest scoring team during the regular-season managed just one goal in Games 5, 6 and 7 against Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens, and grew increasingly frustrated as the series went on.

Kolzig says that the blue-collar style that Hunter has instilled in this year's Capitals allows the team to stay more even-keeled. The Caps have proven to be a resilient bunch under Hunter and have gone 17 straight games without losing two straight, dating to March 23.

"I think the guys have finally bought into Dale's type of hockey and they're realizing what he's been trying to emphasize throughout the year is finally paying off now in the playoffs," Kolzig said. "This is why we've played the way did. The guys are rising to the occasion, the way they battled against Boston and to go into Boston and win three games out of four in that building including Game 7 -- that says a lot."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 1:18 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals dealing with relentless Rangers forecheck

ARLINGTON, Va. -- In the first two games of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, the Washington Capitals were quickly introduced to the New York Rangers' relentless forecheck.

"They buzzed us real good at the beginning of [Game 2]," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said.

The consensus among Washington defensemen is that the Rangers are providing them with far less time and space than the Boston Bruins did in Round 1.

The Rangers are sending pucks deep, gaining the Washington blue line, and finishing their checks on whichever Capitals defenseman is first to retrieve the disc.

"I think that if we can get them slowed up through the neutral zone a little bit, and not let them come through with so much speed, that will give us a little bit more time," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "Then we've just got to go back a little bit harder. When they're coming hard on you like that, you've got to move the puck quick. They're coming. That's the way it is in the playoffs."

The Rangers had 45 hits in Game 2, with 37 of them coming from forwards. Ryan Callahan (eight), Chris Kreider (seven) and Brian Boyle (six) led New York in hits, marking a significant change for the Capitals, who dealt with defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg as the heavy hitters in their first-round series against the Boston Bruins.

"Sometimes you have to maybe cheat a little bit to get back or find a different way to get to that puck first because they come with so much speed and they always finish that first check that you're going to get hit no matter what," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "I think you've got to make sure that you're not getting thrown off by those hits and you just absorb it and get back into the play. It's a good forechecking team. There's not a whole lot you can do."

Far too often in Games 1 and 2, the Capitals were pinned in their own zone for long stretches, unable to overcome New York's forecheck and their pinching defensemen. Caps coach Dale Hunter says that more is needed from his backchecking forwards.

"They're a forechecking team and their D pinch," Hunter said, "so we just have to move the puck quickly. The key to everything is their wingers being good on the boards and chipping pucks out."

Added Wideman: "You can move the puck real quick, or get it off the glass, you might be able to catch them in the middle sometimes. But they come back extremely hard as well. … As hard as they come, we know we can't really make that pass to the winger because their Ds are pinching a lot, so we've got to just get it out, get it on the neutral zone and just try to get it on the forecheck."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 10:17 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin, Backstrom reunited on Caps' top line

ARLINGTON, Va. -- For the better part of the Bruce Boudreau era, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin were fixtures on the Washington Capitals' No. 1 line during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Through nine playoff games under coach Dale Hunter, Ovechkin and Backstrom have yet to start a game on the same unit, and their shifts together have been limited primarily to the power play.

But based on line rushes at the Caps’ morning skate Wednesday, it appears a reunion could be in store on Washington's No. 1 trio.

In preparation for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC), Backstrom skated with the No. 1 line Wednesday morning, flanked by Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.

"We haven't [played together] much at all," Backstrom said of skating alongside Ovechkin since returning from a concussion March 31. "But we should know each other because we've played with each other for a long time [in previous seasons]. We've got to go out and do our job out there and make sure we get some chances and stuff, work hard and do all those little things right, too."

Ovechkin has two goals in his last five games, with Backstrom assisting on both -- the result of Backstrom winning a faceoff directly back to Ovechkin, who was able to beat Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist with shots from just inside the blue line.

Hunter said before Washington's first-round series against the Boston Bruins that he wanted more size alongside Ovechkin to help create space against Boston defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.

Brooks Laich fit the bill in Round 1, but against the smaller and more mobile Rangers defense, Backstrom provides Hunter with a different look. Backstrom will be counted on to generate speed with the puck through the neutral zone and find Ovechkin for open looks.

"I think we have good chemistry," Ovechkin said, "but when I played with [Brooks Laich] it was a good time for me and for him, too, I think. But right now I'll start playing with [Backstrom] -- I don't know how it will go, if we're going to play a whole game or maybe just one period or maybe one shift, we'll see."

Backstrom (16:18) and Ovechkin (13:36) saw career-lows in playoff ice-time in Monday's 3-2 Game 2 win in New York, but both are likely to play more in Game 3. Hunter has made it a point to match lines, and will have the home-ice advantage of the last change in Games 3 and 4.

"I'm just going to try to get the puck to [Ovechkin]," Backstrom said. "Me and Marcus are passers on that line, we know he has a good shot and we've just got to make sure he's open and then we'll try to find him. We'll all three go hard to the net and try to get goals."

Added Ovechkin: "I think we have chemistry, it's not a secret. He can control the puck in the neutral zone and skate and find me in open spots. He's a top center in the League, I've played with him and it's nice."

Regardless of history, ice time or matchups, the Capitals need more from their skilled forwards. Four of Washington's last five even-strength goals have come from their third and fourth lines, while top-six forwards Laich, Backstrom, Johansson and Alexander Semin have all gone at least five games without a goal.

Still, Hunter downplayed the significance of the line changes during practice.

"I don't know if they're playing together," Hunter said. "It's one of those things where they do know each other, but [Laich] has been here a long time, too, so it's just one of those things -- I thought I'd try it in practice."

The Caps' third and fourth lines remain unchanged, as do all three defensive pairings.

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure