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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Torts on fatigue, Lundqvist, Callahan and more

WASHINGTON -- The Rangers were granted a day off Thursday after their four-hour, triple-overtime 2-1 win against the Capitals that actually ended early Thursday morning. They hold a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series, with Game 4 set for Saturday at Verizon Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

Coach John Tortorella spoke on a conference call about a wide-ranging assortment of topics, including the fatigue factor that comes with playing such a long game, the well-rested Henrik Lundqvist and how that's translating in his postseason play and Ryan McDonagh's mental toughness.

Here's everything Tortorella had to say:

Q: Is it possible for a team to have a cumulative fatigue in the playoffs or can you recover from game to game?

TORTORELLA: This is playoff hockey. To me, it's no big deal. There will be no problems with our club.

Q: You've talked about Marian Gaborik gets it -- he's a star player, but he understands the way he needs to play. Have you had to have any conversations with him during this playoff run or do you have faith he's going to turn it around like he did at the end last night?

TORTORELLA: I have conversations with a lot of players throughout the playoffs. That's part of my job and Gabby [Gaborik] is one of them. I've had conversations not just about scoring goals, but a lot of different things, like I do with all the players.

Q: You said after the game last night that all this win means is the Rangers have a 2-1 series lead. But can a game like that galvanize the club moving forward?

TORTORELLA: I think any time you win a game in the playoffs you swing momentum your way. Is it galvanizing? I don't think our team needs to be galvanized. I think it is. I don't think teams that are playing at this time of year don't have that. We found a way to win a game last night and we have a little momentum on our side because we won a game. Now we're just going to go about our business tomorrow and try to keep it on our side as long as we can.

Q: Besides giving the team a day off today, is there anything you can do as a coach to make sure there's no emotional hangover from a draining game like that.

TORTORELLA: No. I trust the team. I think our team has handled the ups and downs all year long and throughout the regular season with some of the things we've gone through as team, so there's not going to be any conversation on that at all. We'll report tomorrow for practice and just get ready for our next game.

Q: Can a win last night be something you can draw on in terms of overcoming adversity in the playoffs?

TORTORELLA: I think it helps for some of the younger guys who had never been in the situation and haven't played in much playoff hockey and going through a game of attrition like last night. I think that's a small scope of what needs to be done in the playoffs because playoffs is about trying to outlast your opponents and keeping momentum on your side. I think we found a way and did something really good things and had some struggles in some other areas. It's a good, positive note to get on the right side of it, so maybe down the road you lean on that. Again, it's one game. We did some good things.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a game like the one last night that involved stamina and the will to win?

TORTORELLA: I can't off the top of my head date it and put the games on, but I think all of us have been involved in those situations. Again, I'm happy the team found a way. I'm happy the way they handled themselves. I'm not surprised the way they handled themselves. They'll probably have to do it again, and they'll probably have to do it again in this series. It's a win for us. I just don't want us to get too carried away because this is part of it. This is what you have to do. I don't think it's anything special. It's a good lesson for us early.

Q: Do you think the extra rest that Henrik Lundqvist was afforded in the regular season can manifest itself in a game that lasts as long as that one did?

TORTORELLA: Sure. I think that Henrik's in a good spot. I think our team's in shape. I think we're mentally rested. I think what we did with Henrik during the year in those situations is why. I'm sure it helped him last night and he'll recover today just like everybody else on the team. This will not affect us. Can he get through it? You have to. This is just a little blip as far as what we had to go through last night. Most of that is a mental strain, not a physical strain.

Q: Would you have been as confident in balancing the two-goalie system without someone like Martin Biron as the other goalie?

TORTORELLA: That's why we signed Marty. The reason why we get to a situation where we're able to play a Game 7 in our building [against Ottawa in the first round] is really because of Marty Biron. He found a way to not only understand his role on the team and play the amount of games he played to give our number-one guy rest, but to also win. That's the important thing. We're not looking for a guy just to spell Hank. We need the goalie to win and that was huge for us this year.

Q: There were a lot of incredible performances from your team last night, but was Ryan Callahan leading by example?

TORTORELLA: That's what he does. I'm not sure if Ryan Callahan said two words on the bench last night during the game. It's what he does on the ice. He had a couple of huge blocks, he scores a power-play goal by being around the blue. He's finishing his checks. I say it over and over again -- that's who he is. One thing I did notice was in between periods it's one voice I could hear when we were going to those overtimes -- his. I think that's part of the maturity of him being a captain. I don't know if two years ago he would've felt comfortable in that situation, but he knows he has a responsibility. In between periods in that locker room, his voice was heard.

Q: John Mitchell had five shots last night after having none in the postseason. Was he noticeably better?

TORTORELLA: I know he concentrated on shooting the puck more. A couple of them were off-angle and not really good scoring chances, but especially in overtime, you're trying to put the puck to the net. I thought the biggest contribution he made was when there was on odd-man rush coming back in our end zone and somehow he had a major block. This was before we scored the winner. Forget about what you saw with shots on goal and faceoffs. He had a huge block. That line gave us some good minutes in the first 60 and through the overtimes. Mike Rupp had the best chance and he hits Brian Boyle right in the [rear end]. I mean, he settles the puck down and it's in the net, but he hits Brian Boyle in the [rear end]. They gave us some good minutes.

Q: Ryan McDonagh played 53 minutes last night and he's just a second-year player, but when did you start having that kind of trust in him?

TORTORELLA: He's probably our best-conditioned athlete. He played a lot of minutes, but he could've gone on for more. The most impressive part of him that made me put trust in him right away as a coaching staff was his mental approach. He makes a mistake or something doesn't go right, for a young player, it usually takes some time to get it out of his head, but he comes right back out there and makes that play at the same time. He's not afraid to make mistakes and recovers so very well if there is a problem. The next shift he's right back at it. He's turning into a top-notch defenseman for us and it will continue.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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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 / 12:46 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 3 lineup for Rangers

WASHINGTON -- The Rangers will likely roll out the same lineup they used against the Capitals in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Monday night when they take the ice for Game 3 on Wednesday.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist also made it known he has zero interest in discussing the ice time of Caps star Alex Ovechkin.

"No, I don't really care either, honestly," Lundqvist said when asked if he noticed Ovechkin's 13:36 of ice time in Game 2. "I focus on my game and what we have to do and if he plays 20 or 10 or 5 or 30, I don't really care."

Rangers coach John Tortorella said forward Brandon Dubinsky, out with a lower-body injury, made the trip to Washington. He also said defenseman Stu Bickel, who hasn't played more than five minutes in the past six games and committed a turnover that led to a goal in Game 2, needs to be sharper or he'll find himself playing even fewer minutes.

"He'll be fine. He has to be," Tortorella said. "If he isn't, he'll play less."

With no changes expected, here's what the Rangers' lines and d-pairs will likely be at Verizon Center for Game 3 with the best-of-seven series tied 1-1.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Artem Anisimov - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 12:32 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers bring road show to Washington

WASHINGTON -- The New York Rangers were one of the NHL's best road teams during the regular season, going 24-12-5 away from Madison Square Garden for a League-best 53 points.

That success has spilled into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers went 2-1 at Scotiabank Place during the first round against Ottawa Senators and will look to keep it rolling at Verizon Center for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals.

"I think our game is not a game that's relying on a lot of pretty, wide-open plays," Rangers forward Mike Rupp said. "When you play a certain style like that, there's a lot of things that can go wrong."

The Rangers can be described in a lot of ways, but pretty and wide-open will rarely be among them. They allowed 96 goals in 41 road games in the regular season, third-fewest in the League, and held the Senators to five goals in three road games during the first round.

"We have a foundation that is about the will and paying the price and playing a sound game we want to play," Rupp said. "I don't want to say that's easy, it's a mindset you have to have every night. It's much easier to resort to that than it is to making pretty plays all night."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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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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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 4:12 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Del Zotto becoming bigger factor from blue line

NEW YORK -- Before the Rangers fell to the Capitals 3-2 on Monday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series that is tied at 1-1, they erased a 2-0 deficit and were a bounce away from forcing overtime.

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a factor in all of it, picking up a secondary assist on Brad Richards' goal late in the first period and firing a shot in the third period that deflected off the leg of Ryan Callahan and became a game-tying power-play goal.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin put his team in front with 7:27 left in the third period, but Del Zotto nearly tied the score in the final minute when his long blast rang off the post and deflected away from the net.

It was Del Zotto's second shot of the period that hit the post.

"He played very well," Rangers coach John Tortorella said Tuesday.

Del Zotto, 21, played 25:08 in Game 2, by far his biggest workload of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a sign he's earning more trust from Tortorella.

"Whatever minutes I get out there, I'm going to play my best," Del Zotto said. "I had some good chances and unfortunately I hit two posts there."

Del Zotto said he's grown more comfortable in his first postseason experience. In his first five games, he had just one assist but has three assists in his last four games.

"It's been fun. I've enjoyed every game," Del Zotto said. "I was happy with my game yesterday. It was a good confidence boost. But getting one late would've nice. But as it goes on, you get more and more comfortable and having more games under your belt definitely helps too. I'm just trying to be better every single day."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 3:58 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Boyle feels fine, wants to improve upon return effort

NEW YORK -- The good news for Brian Boyle after Game 2 against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals is that he felt no ill effects from a concussion that cost him the previous three games.

The bad news for Boyle was that he didn't exactly play his best game in the Rangers' 3-2 loss Monday. Boyle had one shot in 15:20 of ice time in his usual spot centering the Rangers' third line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust, but he was beaten cleanly on a faceoff by Nicklas Backstrom and didn't get to the point in time to block Alex Ovechkin's shot that became the game-winning power-play goal late in the third period.

"I stunk. I have to be better," Boyle said. "I'm not going to accept that, and coaches won't either."

Boyle had three goals in five games during the Rangers' first-round series with the Ottawa Senators, but none of that matters in the second round with the Rangers and Capitals tied 1-1 in their best-of-seven series.

"That's a long time ago," Boyle said. "That's a different series against a different team. If I want to be a big part of it, like I want to be, I have to play better."

The positive for Boyle was he felt fine physically and the concussion was in the rear-view mirror. He tested himself right away during Game 2 and finished the game with six hits.

"Physically, I'm good," Boyle said. "After I got banged around, we had some physical battles, I wasn't thinking about it too much. It was good. No ill effects."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 3:50 PM

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

Capitals say winning, not ice time, the main concern

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Karl Alzner and his teammates were sitting in the players' lounge at the Washington Capitals' practice facility Tuesday morning watching the highlights and analysis on NHL Network.

When the subject turned to Alex Ovechkin's ice time during Washington's 3-2 Game 2 win Monday against the New York Rangers, Alzner and his teammates shook their heads.

"To be honest, it's not even something that we notice," Alzner said of individual playing times. "We don't go down the sheet at the end of the game and say, 'How much did Ovi play?' That's just not something that we do. Talking to some of the guys, we all keep saying the same thing: 'It's too bad that that's the topic of conversation after we just won a big game.'"

Ovechkin skated a career-playoff-low 13:36 as the Caps evened their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at a game apiece thanks in part to Ovechkin's third-period game-winning-goal. Nicklas Backstrom (16:18) and Alexander Semin (12:27) also saw career-lows in playoff ice-time.

"The reason why their ice time is down is because we were up," Troy Brouwer said of the Caps playing much of Game 2 with the lead. "If we were down a goal, their ice time would be way up. … We've got guys like [Jay] Beagle, [Jason] Chimera and [Matt Hendricks] that are looked at when we're leading in a game to maintain that lead, and Alex knows that and he has to accept that."

In 37 career playoff games under Bruce Boudreau, Ovechkin never played less than 19:42, but in nine playoff games under Dale Hunter, Ovechkin has skated 17:34 or less five times.

"If guys are getting upset about ice time and that's all you're worrying about, then you're off," Alzner said. "I've seen that happen to a lot of guys in the last seven years that I've been playing. It's pretty obvious. Everybody right now just doesn't care. Just go out there and play, work hard. Dale's going to reward you."

Hunter has made it a point to reward players regardless of name, salary or experience. Beagle has become the poster boy for Hunter's reward system and has emerged as Washington's shutdown third-line center.

The 26-year-old Beagle had never made an NHL roster out of training camp until this season, but in Game 2 Monday, he led all Washington forwards with 19:58 of ice-time.

"I think you, as a coach, you get more respect that way," Alzner said of Hunter's rewarding players. "You get people, overall, having a better attitude towards it all. … Sometimes the guys that are working extremely hard and aren't getting the minutes that they hope they're getting, they would get frustrated. I think when you reward whoever's going at that time or keeping it more even, collectively everybody's a little bit more happy."
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