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Caps even series with 3-2 win

by Dave Lozo
WASHINGTON -- Hockey players sometimes speak in clichés about winning and losing, taking it one game at a time and not getting too high or too low.

Those were just some of the ways the Washington Capitals rationalized their devastating triple-overtime loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

The Caps backed up their talk in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon with a 3-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at two wins apiece with Game 5 scheduled for Monday night at Madison Square Garden in New York (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"It's not like it was the end of the world," Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said after making 18 saves. "We had two days off. That was a big thing. It helped us out."

Game 4 appeared destined for another overtime, but defenseman Mike Green unleashed a low, hard shot during a power play that beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with 5:48 remaining in regulation for the winning goal.

The Capitals' big three -- Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Green -- all scored. It's the first that has happened since Oct. 30, 2010. There have been few opportunities of late for the three of them to be in the lineup due to major injuries to Backstrom and Green, but all three came through in a big way.

"We needed that today," Holtby said. "We've been kind of relying on our character guys and it's great to see those guys have good games, especially Greenie. He's been working hard and doing all the little things right and to see it rewarded on the stat sheet is huge."

Green's power-play winner was born out of a slashing penalty to Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin with 6:15 remaining. It appeared Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was going to clear the zone, but Caps center Brooks Laich was able to free the puck to Dennis Wideman, who moved the puck across to Green for a big slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Henrik Lundqvist.

It was the second goal of the playoffs for Green, who missed 42 games with a groin injury and another six with an ankle injury this season.

"Before he was injured a lot, we used to see that all the time," said Backstrom, who was out of the lineup for 40 games while dealing with a concussion. "It's great for him and it's great to see him score a goal. It gives him confidence. Huge goal for us."

The Capitals made sure to not let the loss in Game 3 carry over into the first period of Game 4. They outshot the Rangers 14-3 over the first 20 minutes and took a 1-0 lead into the intermission on the strength of Ovechkin's fourth goal of the postseason.

The play started in the corner of the Rangers' defensive zone. The puck slithered to the stick of Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider, who tried to clear the zone with a backhand toss through the middle. It turned into a perfect pass to Ovechkin, who one-timed a shot past Lundqvist at 12:43.

"We just have to score more goals than our opponents," Ovechkin said. "It was very important game for both teams. We're pretty happy we take this, right spot and right time. Right now series is tied. We're going to New York and going to win this game over there."

"My glove just got pushed back," said Lundqvist, describing the force of the shot. "I need to catch that instead of getting the top of my glove on that. I had enough time to get set for it."

The Rangers responded 1:10 into the second period with a goal from Artem Anisimov, who added an assist later in the contest. Defenseman Dan Girardi sent the puck toward the net, where it was blocked by the skates of Laich. But before he could kick the puck to his stick, Anisimov stripped him of it and beat a fallen Holtby.

Backstrom put the Capitals back on top at 11:54 by using a combination of brute force and beautiful finesse. He protected the puck in the corner by putting a shoulder into the chest of Anisimov, who was sent to the ice by the hit. That caused the Rangers to lose coverage around the net and allowed Backstrom a clean lane to rip a wrist shot that beat Lundqvist to the blocker side.

It was Backstrom's second goal and sixth point of the postseason.

"It was real important," Backstrom said of his goal. "I think Rangers came out harder in the second period they were a little more aggressive – we were a little sloppy there. After (New York’s) power play we had a good shift and it was a nice pass by Chimera there."

The lead was short-lived, as Marian Gaborik scored his third goal of the playoffs and second in two games after some great hustle by Anisimov and some miscommunication by the Capitals.

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal sent the puck into the Caps zone before reaching the red line, and Holtby raised his glove to indicate a potential icing. Wideman stopped skating and Anisimov darted to the puck behind the net. He fed it in front to Gaborik, who was all alone for the easy goal at 16:43.

A back-and-forth third period came down to a penalty by Hagelin and big shot from Green that turned this series into a best-of-three.

"Right now, it's tough to be positive but it's 2-2," Lundqvist said. "I'm probably going to think about this game a little bit for a couple hours, then move on and look forward to playing at home."

So much for any emotional carryover from the longest game of the playoffs.

"Obviously the guys did the right things on the day off the other day and had a great practice yesterday," Green said. "So we did all the right things we needed to do to prepare ourselves. This is what we needed. We didn’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and have to have our backs up against the wall and be a desperate hockey team. Now we can go into their building and hopefully steal it."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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