- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

Matt Bradley proved Henrik Lundqvist is indeed mortal, and hope of a comeback still exists for the Washington Capitals.

Lundqvist, the star of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series for the New York Rangers, had his first substandard effort, and Bradley scored a pair of goals to help the Caps post a 4-0 victory in Friday night’s Game 5 at surprisingly less-than-full Verizon Center. Washington still trails 3-2; the series moves back to Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon for Game 6.

“It is not every day [Bradley] scores, but I’m really happy for him because he works hard and he goes as unsung hero,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Alex Ovechkin added another highlight-reel goal to his library, and rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov stopped all 20 shots he faced to help stave off elimination. Should the Caps prevail in Manhattan, Game 7 would be back here Tuesday night.

“It is our goal. We never give up, and we fight,” Ovechkin said. “We love the situation. We know it is hard, but we love it.”

Bradley put the Caps on the board first at 4:58 of the first period with a shorthanded tally. Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival fell down along the left boards near the Caps’ blue line, and Bradley skated past him to get to the puck. He knocked it past New York’s other power-play point man, Chris Drury, and had open ice in front of him. Bradley flipped a backhander past Lundqvist for his first playoff goal in 22 postseason contests.

“I have to give [assistant coach] Dean Evason credit,” said Bradley, who used a similar move to end a 12-round shootout against Edmonton. “We play a little game at the end of every pregame skate that we have to do breakaways.”

Bradley made it a two-goal advantage at 12:07. Brooks Laich lofted the puck from the neutral zone toward the right corner and Bradley chased it down and squeezed a shot past Lundqvist from near the goal line. Normally on the fourth line, Bradley was promoted to the third unit. He nearly had as many shots (two) as the Rangers (three) had in the first period.

In the second period, Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff back to Alexander Semin, who blistered a shot into the top left corner of the net at 4:57 to make it 3-0. It was Semin’s team-leading fourth of this series. He has seven career postseason goals for the Caps - more than any other player on the team.

Ovechkin’s goal came late in the middle period. He carried the puck into the zone and brushed off an attempted hit by Drury before slipping the puck through Derek Morris’ legs. He lost control of it for a second but kicked the puck back to his stick and backhanded a shot past Lundqvist, just as Aaron Voros fell on top of him, with 29 seconds left.

“It was just lucky bounce, I think,” Ovechkin said. “I hit Morris, and it goes to my skates. I have balance, but it was no good and I just fell. My backhand is terrible.”

That was the last shot Lundqvist would see. Rangers coach John Tortorella benched him in favor of backup Stephen Valiquette for the third period.

“He’s been great in all the games, so I’m sure he was going to have one of those nights,” Backstrom said of his fellow Swede in the Rangers’ net. “We have to get going again on Sunday and try to this do again.”

It was another strong defensive effort for the Caps, but it was also another flawless night for Varlamov, the 20-year-old rookie who has nearly as many postseason starts (four) as he does in the regular season (five). He now has two shutouts in this series and leads the league in goals-against average (0.76) and save percentage (.969).

“There are some things that will rattle anybody, but if there is anything that would rattle me, I am definitely not sharing it now,” Varlamov said through an interpreter.

Added Boudreau: “I’m just going to keep letting him go. I don’t want to get in his head. I don’t even want to talk to him.”

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