NEW YORK | When Marcus Johansson passed up a shot in Game 2 to pass the puck to Nicklas Backstrom, it was a lost scoring chance when the Capitals didn’t get the puck on net. Johansson also missed his opportunity at the side of the net Saturday after Alex Ovechkin’s sublime set-up.
“I think sometimes we just didn’t shoot the puck and make cute plays,” Ovechkin said. “Like you can see when Backy and JoJo have a two-on-one, JoJo have an empty net and he just pass it to Backy. That kind of moments we have to forget about cuteness and forget about prettiest play. We have to score goals.”
That’s one of the messages going into Game 3: that pass-first players like Backstrom and Johansson can’t be afraid to shoot and make Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist make a save.
“Obviously we got to shoot the puck more. We get chances and we’ve got to take those opportunities,” Backstrom said. “The more shot you got the better chance you have to score; me and Marcus have got to shoot more for sure.”
Coach Adam Oates said after his team’s 1-0 overtime victory Saturday that “it’s hard for me to tell guys to shoot the puck when I never did.” But being too “cute” is an issue with the Caps’ top line.
“They’re kind of a tic-tac-toe line and they get caught up in that sometimes every once in a while,” Oates said. “But for the most part you’ve seen there’s not a lot of goals that can come off the cycle and hard plays. We do remind them of that.”
With the Rangers keying on Ovechkin, there are more chances for Backstrom and Johansson to shoot. It’s up to them to take advantage.
“Those two guys, that line, the chemistry they have when they’re on their game, I think all three guys can generate more shots for each other and obviously Ovi’s the No. 1 guy,” Oates said. “He’s the shooter of the three and both guys kind of cater to that but they still have their opportunities in the game.”
Of course that doesn’t mean Backstrom and Johansson will forget about their roles when Ovechkin is in a prime scoring area.
“If we’re in a good spot, obviously you’ve got to shoot. But other than that we’re playing with the guy who has the best shot in the league,” Backstrom said. “I think it’s a combination, sometimes you’ve got to look for a shot sometimes you have to look for a pass. Hopefully we look better tonight.”