upstaged Alex Ovechkin
and rallied the New York Rangers
to a rare victory at the Verizon Center.
The Rangers did what none of the Washington Capitals
' first three opponents could do -- shut down Ovechkin, who had 5 goals in his first three games -- and Gaborik scored a pair of goals less than three minutes apart midway through the third period to give New York a 4-3 win on Thursday night.
Two goals by Nicklas Backstrom
earlier in the third period gave the Caps a 3-2 lead. But Gaborik tied the game with a shot from the left circle past Jose Theodore at 8:09, then gave the Rangers the lead when he took rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto
's breakout pass, stepped into the Caps' zone and beat Theodore through a screen from the high slot at 10:42.
"The first one was lucky," said Gaborik, the Rangers' big free-agent acquisition who has four goals in as many games. "The second was a nice feed from Del Zotto and I just tried to shoot quick and go for the five-hole."
Gaborik's goals were enough to give the Rangers their third consecutive win after a season-opening loss at Pittsburgh.
“I thought we showed some resiliency,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “You know what? Hank has been bailing us out of some messes along the way here for a while, and I’m glad the team hung in there and helped him out a little bit.”
Ovechkin was held without a point after getting three in each of Washington's first three games. It wasn't for lack of trying -- the reigning NHL MVP had nine shots on goal and five more than were blocked or missed the net.
The Rangers led 2-1 after two periods before a rare gaffe by Henrik Lundqvist
handed the Capitals the tying goal at 3:17 of the third. Backstrom picked up a rebound in his own zone after Theodore made a big stop on ex-teammate Donald Brashear, carried the puck off left wing and dumped it on goal from the red line -- only to see it skitter past Lundqvist's stick and into the far corner.
"It was a little bit of a shock," Lundqvist said of Backstrom's first goal. "A goal like that is a big test. It felt good to battle back -- the team battled back and I battled back."
Washington was 0-for-7 on the power play through two periods, but converted its eighth chance when Backstrom -- the NHL leader with eight assists -- turned into a shooter. He got to the slot and finished off a slick pass from Brooks Laich
by snapping the puck behind Lundqvist at 7:51.
But the lead lasted just 18 seconds -- Gaborik came down left wing and beat Theodore for his third of the season to get the Rangers even again.
The Rangers won for just the third time in their last 11 visits to Washington and the first time in the regular season since Feb. 10, 2007.
Not surprisingly, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was more than a little displeased with his team's effort -- Washington has allowed six third-period goals in its last three games.
"It's a really upsetting trend," Boudreau said. "Better stop in a hurry."
He has harsh words for Theodore, saying, "Those are the ones, in the third period, you've got to stop. I mean, you've just got to stop."
He also criticized his defensemen, saying, "The guys that are making mistakes are not first-year guys," then added, "These guys should know what ... they're doing."
Nor were the Caps' third- and fourth-line forwards immune.
"If you're not going to score," he said, "you better not be on for any goals-against."
Ovechkin had a great chance to score on the Caps' first power play -- and passed instead of shooting, trying to feed Chris Clark at the right post instead of shooting from the left circle.
Semin, whose hot start has been overshadowed by Ovechkin's, put the Caps in front at 9:18, finishing off a sensational diagonal pass from defenseman Brian Pothier after Semin forced a Ranger turnover in the neutral zone. It was his fifth goal, tying him -- at least briefly -- with Ovechkin and Philadelphia's Mike Richards for the League lead.
Lundqvist made two good saves on Ovechkin a few minutes later as the Capitals fired away unsuccessfully during a 93-second two-man advantage.
The Rangers had their best chance to score just after killing off Washington's fourth power play. Brandon Dubinsky
sent Chris Higgins in on a breakaway, but Theodore robbed him with a glove save.
The final buzzer kept Ovechkin from getting another scoring chance. He took a drop pass on a 2-on-2 break and deked his way past the defense, only to have time run out before he could get a shot on Lundqvist. Ovechkin finished the period with three of the Capitals' nine shots; the Rangers had seven.
Both teams had great chances just after the five-minute mark of the second period, only to be denied. Ovechkin was denied by Lundqvist on a backhander, and on the return rush, Theodore stopped Higgins in alone on a backhander.
Washington got its fifth power play of the game when Michal Rozsival was called for holding at 6:45, then got a second 5-on-3 when Drury was called for high-sticking 29 seconds later. But Mike Green
took down Rangers defenseman Mark Staal 29 seconds after that, cutting the advantage to 4-on-3.
Ovechkin, who stayed out, was the culprit on the tying goal at 8:47. He coughed up the puck to Ryan Callahan
, who broke in alone and beat Theodore with a Semin and a gassed Ovechkin in futile pursuit just as Rozsival came out of the box.
That goal energized the Rangers, who quickly went ahead when Ales Kotalik beat Theodore at 10:48.
Theodore kept it a one-goal game with 5:30 left in the period, stopping rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy's blast from the left dot and covering the rebound before Artem Anisimov
could get to it.
--John Kreiser, NHL.com