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Caps’ perseverance pays off; power play produces
There’s no use trying to come up with moral victories on the power play. It’s about producing, and it’s frustrating when everything goes right and the puck doesn’t go in the net.
The Washington Capitals experienced plenty of that lately, most notably Saturday in Game 4 when a perfect slap pass from Brooks Laich found Alex Ovechkin on the doorstep for a redirection. But New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made one of the highlight-reel saves of the playoffs.
Keith Aucoin, who found Laich on the play, thought: “You got to be kidding me.” But the Caps managed to break out of a 1-for-11 power-play slump on defenseman Mike Green’s game-winner with 5:48 left in the third period.
“It’s a reward for better work on the power play,” Laich said. “Our power play, you could tell from the first one we had in the game that it was sharp: the passes were direct, and there were chances and shots. That first power play looked really sharp, and then we got another one and got a goal.”
Much maligned for a lack of output, the Caps had to credit Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy finalist, and the Rangers’ penalty killers for some of the outage.
Still, players talked about needing to improve. In a series such as this, a productive power play can make the difference.
“We can be better. I think with the opportunities we’ve had, we need to start at least creating more momentum for our team,” Green said. “I think a lot of times we lose the wind in our sail when we get a power play. But obviously we’re scoring them at the right time.”
No discipline for Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin received a two-minute minor penalty for charging Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in Game 4, and there was some thought that the Caps captain might be getting a call from the NHL. Ovechkin came up high on Girardi and is a repeat offender.
But Ovechkin did not receive any supplemental discipline for the hit, which he claimed was shoulder to shoulder. Girardi said Ovechkin struck his head.
“I just missed the puck,” Ovechkin said Saturday. “I tried to kick the puck, and I saw he was coming, so I just got to protect myself.”
Coach Dale Hunter called it “incidental contact,” though he acknowledged Sunday every player, not just Ovechkin, needs to be careful with such hits, given the way the league has doled out punishment.
Backstrom like Forsberg
A slick shot over Lundqvist pulled Nicklas Backstrom out of a goal drought dating to Game 2 of the Boston series, but it was his move in the corner, shoving 6-foot-4 Artem Anisimov away with ease that elicited comparisons to his idol, Peter Forsberg.
“I don’t know if he took a page out of Forsberg’s book, but he always does that,” said left wing Jason Chimera, whose perfect pass set up Backstrom’s goal. “It’s a good play to separate yourself from a guy because usually guys are not expecting to get hit when they’re coming to hit a guy. …You see him do that a lot. That’s why you don’t go near him in practice when he’s got the puck. So you try to stay off him.”
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