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Ovechkin, Capitals edged by Rangers again

by David Satriano / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Alex Ovechkin said the Washington Capitals would win Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

They would not lose a third straight game and squander what was once a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round series, he said.

Ovechkin scored a goal, but the Capitals lost the decisive game Wednesday at Madison Square Garden when Derek Stepan scored 11:24 into overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory.

"Great battle," Ovechkin said. "One shot, one moment. I think we played great in OT; we had chances. But one moment can end the series and end the game. It's over. I wish them luck."

It was the third straight Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in which the Capitals were eliminated with a Game 7 loss to the Rangers. In the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Washington had a 3-2 series lead on New York before losing 5-0 in Game 7 at home.

The Capitals are 3-11 with a chance to clinch a series since 2009 after the loss Wednesday.

Ovechkin scored at 12:50 of the first period to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. It was his third goal in the series and first since Game 2.

It was not enough.

Ovechkin lamented the fact the Capitals didn't close out the Rangers before Game 7 was necessary.

"We were so close to finishing the series here [in Game 5] but we didn't, and they came back," he said. "I don't think we played bad. ...I don't know what to say, but it's tough."

Washington has not advanced to the Eastern Conference Final since 1998. Ovechkin, who finished his 10th season in the NHL, had 53 goals to lead the League during the regular season, and scored five more in 14 postseason games. He is 3-6 in nine career Game 7s with three goals.

"We played a great first period. Didn't give them much, then we made mistakes," Ovechkin said. "After that we tried to dominate them. We tried to play physical. Obviously, [Henrik] Lundqvist was very good today and the last couple of games. I don't think anyone could point a finger on someone else. We have a great team, and I think we deserved a better result."

Ovechkin has faced his share of criticism for the Capitals' lack of postseason success, but his coach, Barry Trotz, disagrees with it.

"I know people went after Alex for [his prediction]," Trotz said. "I'd love to go in a foxhole with guys who will stick their neck out and say, 'I am going to deliver for you,' and he did. He was really strong. He got our goal.

"You look at the growth of [Nicklas] Backstrom and Ovi. They put themselves out there, and I don't know if they would have done that in the past. I've seen them mature not only as hockey players, but as people and leaders. They still have lots of good hockey left in them."

Backstrom has played with Ovechkin in all nine Game 7s of his NHL career.

"We have a great group of guys in the dressing room," Backstrom said. "The difference from last year is we play the right way. It's something we want to build on, but it's tough to think about right now."

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