NEW YORK Last season the Washington Capitals had to fight with incredible desperation to rally from a three games to one deficit to force a Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The New York Rangers have provided far less resistance in the same situation this year.
Five different players tallied goals, including three defensemen, and the Caps cruised to a 5-3 victory Sunday afternoon to level the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at three games apiece. The series will shift back to Verizon Center one more time for the deciding Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Tom Poti had a goal and three assists, and rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov made 29 saves. New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist had another forgettable outing, yielding five goals and exiting after two periods for the second consecutive contest.
Since Varlamov replaced Jose Theodore in net for Washington, the Caps have outscored the Rangers 14-6 and likely would have ended this series were in not for transcendent performances from Lundqvist in Games 2 and 4.
Each of Washington’s first three goals came from the defense corps. Milan Jurcina registered his first career playoff goal 7:09 into the first period with a rare wrist shot from the right circle.
Twenty-three seconds later Shaone Morrisonn took a penalty, and the dormant Rangers power play converted for the first time since Game 1. Scott Gomez tipped a shot from Wade Redden past Varlamov at 8:15, but after that it was all Washington.
By the waning moments of the second period, the fans at the Garden had gone from restless to concerned to indignant.
Mike Green gave the Caps the lead at 13:58 of the opening period with his first goal of the series. Alexander Semin’s shot on the power play was blocked, but it kicked to Green in the right circle and he snapped a shot in the top right corner.
Poti went to the penalty box 66 seconds after Green’s goal, but this time it ended up being to the Caps advantage. As he came out of the box, the puck came to him and ignited a 3-on-1. Poti, Boyd Gordon and David Steckel executed a perfect tic-tac-toe passing exhibition with Poti slamming it past Lundqvist at the right post for a two-goal lead at 17:14.
If the Rangers were going to show resolve on the day their coach, John Tortorella, was banished to a luxury suite high above the ice for tossing a water bottle into the stands at Verizon Center during Game 6, it wasn’t evident in the second period.
New York went more than eight minutes without a shot, and the first one was a dump-in from center ice by defenseman Paul Mara. Meanwhile, the Caps continued to pour iton.
Seconds after New York’s Nikolai Zherdev missed a wide-open net with a backhanded shot, Viktor Kozlov faked out Marc Staal and beat Lundqvist before barreling into the netminder at 9:21 of the period for his second goal of the series.
Alex Ovechkin added his third of the series and second in as many games when he redirected a point shot from Poti with the team on the power play at 16:44.