Rangers hold off Capitals to even series at 1-1
NEW YORK — The New York Rangers needed to bounce back after a tough loss to the Washington Capitals.
Chris Kreider didn’t need long to get them going.
Kreider scored 38 seconds after the opening faceoff and the Rangers defeated the Capitals 3-2 Saturday, tying their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1-1.
"I think it helped us a lot to get back on track and not think too much, just play our game and get the building going," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves.
"You definitely need to build up your confidence a little bit after what happened last game. That was tough. But you move on."
The next stop is Washington for Game 3 on Monday, and if it is like the first two, it should be fun. Both games have been decided by a goal.
"We didn’t play good enough to win this hockey game," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "The Rangers deserved to win this hockey game. We didn’t play our best game."
Dan Boyle and Derick Brassard also scored for New York in the entertaining game that featured a highlight-reel goal by Alexander Ovechkin that made the final 10 minutes exciting.
Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Washington and Braden Holtby made 32 saves and prevented the Capitals from being blown out early.
Game 2 will be remembered for Kreider’s early goal and Ovechkin’s spectacular tally in the third period, when the NHL’s top goal scorer got past top defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and beat Lundqvist with a top-shelf shot as he was falling to the ice.
"It’s just an instinct situation," Ovechkin said.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was impressed.
"The guys pushed him to the outside and there were almost three guys around him and he still got the shot off from his knees. He’s a great player."
The Rangers were looking for a response after losing Game 1 on a goal by Joel Ward with 1.3 seconds left.
And they came out so fast the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden hadn’t even settled comfortably into their seats after the national anthem before they were jumping to celebrate.
It was similar to Game 1 against the Penguins when Brassard scored 28 seconds after the opening-round series started.
This time it was Kreider. He deflected a pass by defenseman Kevin Klein into the Washington zone and then went to the net and fired the rebound of Jesper Fast’s shot into an open net for a quick lead.
Kreider felt the win was the perfect response to the Game 1 loss, but the goal was a stepping stone.
"We needed to answer and now it’s the best of five," Kreider said.
Washington didn’t go away after falling behind 2-0 and 3-1, and they had chances in the closing minutes to tie the game.
After killing off a late penalty, Washington pulled Holtby and came close to tying the game, but Lundqvist stopped Troy Brouwer in close in the final minute.
"We have to have a better start," Ovechkin said. "The physical game was not at the level we want. We gave them too much confidence, too much freedom to their skill guys."
The Rangers had a dominant first period, outshooting Capitals 15-4 and taking a 2-0 lead.
Boyle got the second goal with a shot from the point on a power play after the puck hit one of the officials and stayed in the Washington zone. His shot eluded Holtby, who was being distracted by Rick Nash in the crease.
Holtby was the major reason the Capitals were still in the game after 40 minutes. He stopped 25 of 27 shots, including early second-period stops in close on Fast and James Sheppard that could have given New York a bigger lead.
Kuznetsov scored on a rebound with 6:01 left in the second period to cut the lead to 2-1, but Brassard stretched the lead to 3-1 at 6:07 of the third period, just 10 seconds after he came out of the penalty box.
Ovechkin narrowed the lead to 3-2 with his fourth goal of the playoffs and second in as many games against the Rangers.
NOTES: Kreider leads the Rangers in playoff goals (13) since he made his NHL debut in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Ottawa on April 16, 2012. … Capitals C Eric Fehr missed his sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. C Michael Latta was a healthy scratch. … Rangers RW Mats Zuccarello missed his second straight game after being hit in the head by a shot in Game 5 against Pittsburgh. … New York recalled LW Ryan Bourque from Hartford (AHL) before the game. He did not play. … Ovechkin led the Capitals with nine hits. … Girardi had a game-high five blocks.