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Ovie to fans: 'Keep the faith'

Thursday, 04.23.2009 / 4:31 PM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Alex Ovechkin not only realizes how helpless the Washington Capitals fans are feeling today, he is taking it upon himself to research exactly what they're saying.

"Nobody's going to believe it, but, you know, I like to go to our fan club message boards," Ovechkin said after the Capitals' practice Thursday afternoon at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. "They say, 'OK, like, what's next?' 'What do we have to do?' 'Trade him.' 'Build new team.' It's kind of an interesting situation."

While most athletes try to shield themselves from that kind of talk, especially when they're in a major hole like the Caps are now -- down 3-1 to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal with Game 5 Friday night at Verizon Center -- Ovechkin instead wants to know what his fans are thinking and how they're feeling.

Needless to say, the feeling is mutual.

"I just want to see how our fans react," he said. "Of course, they're not happy, but we're not happy either. But it is what it is. We lost three games. I think we played good enough in the games, but one guy beats our team."

That guy, of course, is Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 38 sparkling saves to preserve a 2-1 win in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden and has stopped 141 of 149 shots in the series.

After four mostly magnificent performances, it's fair to wonder if Lundqvist is now in the Caps' heads.

"Their goalie is playing a little bit out of his head, and I don't even know if it's out of his head -- it's normal for him," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's the way he plays."

Asked why the Caps have struggled to score in this series, Ovechkin said, "Too many good saves."

He thinks luck has something to do with it, too.

Both Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov rang shots off the post Wednesday while the Rangers scored their goals on a deflection off Washington defenseman John Erskine and off a rebound after goalie Simeon Varlamov flubbed a knuckling shot by Chris Drury.

"We don't have luck," Ovechkin said. "We hit lots of posts. We still have many chances to score goals, especially in the last two periods, but it's the game. We had 100 percent chances to score goals and we didn't score. They had maybe 50 percent chances and they scored. Maybe it's experience for them, but it's not excuses. We realize we're a good team, but we have to show it on the ice. It's all about us right now."

The Caps are trying to use the rallying cry that they've been in this situation before and found a way out of it -- last year against Philadelphia before losing in Game 7 -- but even that is hard to do with Lundqvist on the ice.

"Last year we were playing against a team that was more about the hockey team than the goaltender," Caps forward Brooks Laich said. "This year, the goaltender is really the star of their team. The reason that they've won three out of four is he's stood on his head. Sometimes he can be in your head."

The Capitals will get one more chance to rattle Lundqvist, and they'll need all the help they can get. So, after reading all the messages by the fans, Ovechkin has one for them heading into Game 5 Friday night at Verizon Center.

"Keep your head up," he said. "We need support right now, like last year. Our fans were great all season long. Wish us well. Scream loud. That's it."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com

Quote of the Day

I think I'm lucky to be here and you definitely don't take very many things for granted, if you take anything for granted. I definitely put my family and my wife and my close family in perspective, that they're the most important thing in the world. I want to do whatever I can to play hockey, but like I said, under the right circumstances.

— Stars forward Rich Peverley to "The Musers" radio show on The Ticket 1310 AM in Dallas