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Rangers blow 4-0 lead in 5-4 OT loss to Caps

by Brian Compton /
Had the New York Rangers put the pedal to the metal on Tuesday night, it probably would have been a much happier holiday break.

After jumping out to a 4-0 lead, the Blueshirts got away from their game and lost 5-4 as Shaone Morrisonn scored in overtime to life the Washington Capitals to an improbable victory at Madison Square Garden. It was Washington's first win in the Big Apple in almost five years.

''They stopped playing hockey,'' said Caps forward Alex Ovechkin, who scored twice and had 13 shots on goal. ''They probably believed (at) 4-0 they'd win the game. They tried to play conservative, but we play a different way. We play a hard, physical game and take lots of shots. You see the results.''

Things certainly didn't look good early for Washington -- especially for goaltender Jose Theodore. The former Hart Trophy winner was chased late in the first period after Ryan Callahan's first of two goals gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

But with backup Brent Johnson fighting a cold and suffering from a sore hip, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau asked Theodore to go back in the game at the start of the second period. He was much better the second time around and finished with 21 saves — plus an unlikely victory.

''Sometimes the coach wants to give you the chance to bounce back, and that's what he did,'' Theodore said. ''I was really lucky that I did have the chance to show character.''

Washington didn't show much early. Markus Naslund broke a scoreless tie just 3:38 into the game, and the Rangers tripled their lead when Michael Rozsival and Callahan scored just 11 seconds apart. Callahan made it a 4-0 game at 4:48 of the second period, as it appeared the rout was on.

''The good thing is we were down 4-0 early. It's almost better,'' Boudreau said. ''If we could get one and start believing ... that's all we kept thinking about in the room. If you believe, it can happen.''

And it did. Washington began its ride on the comeback trail when Ovechkin beat Henrik Lundqvist at 12:35 of the second. Lundqvist, an annual Vezina Trophy candidate, has allowed at least five goals in three of his last seven appearances. But Rangers coach Tom Renney wasn't about to put all of the blame on his No. 1 goaltender.

''There were two deflected pucks that were pretty tough to stop, and that bomb in OT,'' Renney said. ''Henrik played well. He was not a concern at all.''

Tomas Fleischmann cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal just 1:41 into the third period. With Rozsival in the box for hooking, Fleischmann took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and fired a long shot from the right side that found its way past Lundqvist to make it 4-2. Viktor Kozlov added a power-play goal of his own at 7:04 to get the Caps within one.

"Those two power play goals really hurt us," Naslund said. "But there was a reason why we took those penalties, too, and that is because we were back on our heels. We are just making immature mistakes. We have to find that level of confidence to put teams away."

New York was unable to do that, as Ovechkin tied the game with his 22nd goal of the season with 7:22 remaining. The Russian superstar stole the puck from Rangers captain Chris Drury and beat Lundqvist on a breakaway to make it 4-4.

"We all know he's a great player," Lundqvist said of Ovechkin. "It's not a surprise. I felt great after two. They've got a couple of skilled guys and they got some good opportunities. They made us pay. We have to move on. I think we're all very disappointed right now."

Ovechkin collected another point in overtime as he assisted on Morrisonn's game-winner. Celebrating his 26th birthday, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound defenseman took a drop pass from Michael Nylander and ripped a slap shot past Lundqvist to complete the remarkable comeback.

"There were some signs in the first period when we were building our lead that we were playing with fire a little bit," Renney said. "We were pretty much in control of the hockey game in the second period. It's about managing a game. We did a poor job of that."

The only other time the Rangers led 4-0 at home and didn't win was in a 4-4 tie against Philadelphia on March 27, 1979.


"It's not a good way to get a point, but it's over … it's done with," said Drury, who had three assists. "It's already in the garbage can as far as I'm concerned. We move on. You can't change it. If we let this hang around, it's not going to do us any good."

The victory could end up doing a lot of good for the Capitals, who put a dreadful 7-1 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday night behind them in dramatic fashion. Washington will return to the ice on Friday when it hosts the Buffalo Sabres.

"It was a hard loss for us," Ovechkin said. "We just want to improve every game, especially when we lose 7-1. It was a great comeback. We started believing each other again and we won the game."

The Rangers, meanwhile, are off until Saturday when the rivalry with the New Jersey Devils resumes at MSG. Hopefully for the Blueshirts, it's enough time to put an inexcusable loss behind them.

"You've got to let this one go," center Scott Gomez said. "It happens. They took advantage of the special teams. We've got to regroup. We just let it slip."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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