NEW YORK -- In a game filled with costly mistakes by the Washington Capitals, the most glaring one put the spotlight, as it often is, on Alex Ovechkin.

With the Capitals on the power play late in the second period, Ovechkin had trouble handling a cross-ice pass from Connor McMichael that bounced off the boards in the neutral zone. Mika Zibanejad then swept in to steal the puck and, eventually, set up K'Andre Miller for a short-handed goal that would prove to be the game-winner in the New York Rangers’ 4-3 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Tuesday.

That’s the way the first two games of the best-of-7 series have gone for Ovechkin. The Capitals lost both, sending them back to Washington for Game 3 on Friday desperate for a win and desperate for more from their captain.

“We all know we can play against this team,” Ovechkin said. “It was mistakes, a bad bounce off the boards, and we just have to stick together. It’s not going to be easy for us, and it’s not going to be easy for them as well.”

For the Capitals to make it more difficult on the Rangers, Ovechkin will have to elevate his play. Coach Spencer Carbery made that clear postgame while also professing faith that the 38-year-old left wing will rebound.

“I thought the first two games looks a little bit off,” Carbery said. “He’s struggling. It’s hard. It’s the playoffs on the road, he’s getting a tough matchup. But it’s two games. We’re going back home now. We’ll get an opportunity to be able to control the matchup for him and he can flip it.

“That’s one thing about ‘O.’ He can flip it in one game and now he can all of a sudden be a difference-maker and help us win a game or be a driver in winning us a game on home ice.”

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Ovechkin has been a driving force for the Capitals throughout his career, having scored 853 regular-season goals, which is second in NHL history, 41 behind Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894. His production has been a big reason why the Capitals have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 15 times in his 19 seasons.

That includes this season, when he rebounded after scoring just eight goals in his first 43 games to score 23 over his final 36 to help Washington qualify as the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

Ovechkin is also a proven playoff performer. His 72 postseason goals are second among active NHL players, one behind Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars. That includes the 15 he scored in 2018, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs after leading Washington to its first Stanley Cup championship.

But Ovechkin has had a hard time getting scoring chances in the first two games of this series. Peter Laviolette, who coached Ovechkin with the Capitals the previous three seasons before joining the Rangers this season, has been using the line of Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafrenière against Ovechkin’s line with McMichael and T.J. Oshie, a matchup that’s left little time and open ice for Ovechkin to get off his lethal shot.

“He's a player that can make a difference in a game, and we're mindful of that and we do our best to check him,” Laviolette said.

Ovechkin had seven shot attempts, including five that were blocked, and was held without a shot on goal in a playoff game for only the fourth time in his career in Washington’s 4-1 loss in Game 1 on Sunday. The start to Game 2 was more promising for Ovechkin and the Capitals.

He had shot from the left circle 2:18 into the game that goalie Igor Shesterkin sticked aside, and McMichael scored at 5:09 of the first period to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. But that would be Ovechkin’s only credited shot on goal of the game. He had two that were blocked and one that was listed as having gone wide of the net.

That last one was a wrist shot from the left circle with 1:26 remaining, when the Capitals had goalie Charlie Lindgren pulled for an extra attacker and were seeking the tying goal. Shesterkin got a piece of it with his glove but was not credited with a save.

Regardless, it was by far Ovechkin’s most dangerous chance through the first two games.

“Whether that’s a product of his matchup, whether that’s a product of his line combination, whether he’s played a role in that, we’ve got to find a way to get him in spots where it’s him and Shesterkin and he’s within the top of the circles,” Carbery said. “The second thing that I see is his shot gets blocked. That’s where I see, ‘OK, it’s off just a touch.’ ... But he’ll be good. He’s been through so many situations like this, I expect him to step up big time in Game 3.”

Ovechkin took responsibly for the short-handed goal, which increased New York’s lead to 4-2 at 16:52 of the second period, saying, “I have to play safer, especially in that kind of moment.”

Having seen him do it many times before, the Capitals are confident he’ll find a way to redeem himself in this series.

“Any time he’s going, our team’s going,” McMichael said. “So, I’m not too worried about ‘O.’ I feel like there’s been plenty of times where people say he’s not going and then all of a sudden he scores two, three goals. So, I’m not worried about him. He’ll be fine.”

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