Capitals defeat Rangers 2-1 to force Game 7

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Alex Ovechkin didn’t want it to end like this. Not after the run the Washington Capitals went on, through the Boston Bruins and sticking with the New York Rangers goal-for-goal.

“I don’t think we deserve to end the season right now,” the captain said Wednesday morning. “Everybody knows, I think, we are a good hockey club. We beat the Stanley Cup champion in seven games at home. And we get that kind of confidence.”

Ovechkin and Co. had the kind of confidence and strong play to make sure the season didn’t end in Game 6, beating the New York Rangers 2-1 to force a deciding seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday night back at Madison Square Garden.

“We believed in ourselves all along,” right wing Joel Ward said. “I think the guys played a strong game. Unfortunately, we gave up one at the end to make it one of those games, but we’re excited just to get an opportunity to prove ourselves again.”

To go out in six wouldn’t have been indicative of this series, with every game seemingly decided by one bounce, including a Game 5 decided by Ward’s high-stick and a couple of Rangers goals that could have haunted the Caps.

Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) congratulates Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) as they hold on to defeat the New York Rangers 2-1 in game six of the NHL eastern conference playoffs semifinals at the Verizon Center, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 9, 2012 (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green (52) congratulates Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby ... more >

But from the opening draw Wednesday night, the Capitals looked like the more desperate team, even if not the better team, to put that nightmare behind them.

“People said we’re done after triple overtime,” said Jason Chimera, who scored the game-winning goal Wednesday. “Everyone, I think counted us out. This is the way we are. … We don’t really crack.”

Chimera used his jump to draw an early penalty, and Ovechkin took advantage, scoring on the power play 1:28 in. It was the perfect way to beat Henrik Lundqvist, with perfect passing and a shot to the high, glove side.

Any goal was going to make Verizon Center explode. Everyone knew going in what kind of energy would fill the building for an elimination game. The Caps moved to 7-1 when scoring first in these playoffs.

“It’s not about me; it’s all about everybody. We want to play good in a playoff game. Of course I’m gonna do my best and everybody is going to do their best,” Ovechkin said. “You can see how we start a hockey game where we put pucks deep and finish our checks and move our legs, get a penalty and score a goal.”

This Caps’ domination was about timely goals and Braden Holtby, who made 30 saves, coming just 50.5 seconds away from his first career playoff shutout. But most importantly, it was about the Capitals‘ ability to so thoroughly rebound from Monday’s potentially devastating overtime loss.

“A lot of character in that room, and again, they sacrificed,” coach Dale Hunter said. “We played a good game in [Madison Square Garden], but we came up short. But they battled again because of the character we had in the dressing room.”

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