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Caps hold off Rangers 2-1 to force deciding Game 7

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals haven't been to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1998. The New York Rangers haven't been there since 1997.

Thanks to another strong game from Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, the two teams will battle one more time for the right to face the New Jersey Devils in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Capitals received early goals from Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera and Holtby made then stand up by stopping 30 of 31 shots to give the Capitals a 2-1 win over the Rangers Wednesday night at the Verizon Center to even their best-of-seven series at three wins apiece.

The decisive Game 7 will be played Saturday night in New York's Madison Square Garden.

"There's a lot of battle in this team," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said.

The Capitals are now 6-0 in the post-season following losses.

"Guys don't want this season to end," added Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer. "It's going to be a great Game 7."

In their history, the Rangers are 4-5 all-time in Game 7, but 4-0 at the Garden, including their Game 7 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Round 1.

The Capitals are 3-7 all-time in Game 7 and 1-1 on the road, including a Game 7 overtime victory in Boston in Round 1.

The Capitals are looking to pull off what the Rangers accomplished in the first round, when they won the final two games of their series against Ottawa after falling behind three games to two.

"We wanted to close them out tonight and we didn't," Rangers forward Brian Boyle said. "So it's a bad feeling right now."

The Rangers failed on 10 minutes of power play time in the game, including a four-minute man-advantage in the second period.

"It (stunk)," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of his team's power play, which went 0-for-5. "It kills you. It (stunk)."

The Rangers managed to close within one goal when Marian Gaborik scored with 50.5 seconds remaining and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker. But unlike two nights earlier, the Rangers could not score the equalizer.

The Capitals responded well from Monday night's crushing loss, roaring out to a 2-0 lead in Game 6 against the Rangers.

Ovechkin, who in Game 5 failed to record a shot for just the second time in his playoff career, got things started just 88 seconds into the game when he rifled a blistering one-timer past Lundqvist's catching glove.

The Rangers' Anton Stralman put the Capitals on the power play by tripping Jason Chimera just 1:13 into the game. On the power play, the Capitals moved the puck quickly around the offensive zone, resulting in Nicklas Backstrom finding Ovechkin in the high slot for his team-high fifth goal of the playoffs and third of the series.

The team that has scored the first goal of the game has won every game in the series and the Capitals doubled their lead to 2-0 midway through the second period.

This time it was a shot by John Carlson that caromed off the skate of Backstrom right onto the blade of Jason Chimera's stick. The veteran left wing easily deposited the puck into the empty side of the net for his fourth goal of the post-season at the 10:59 mark.

"It was a lucky goal," Chimer said, "but that's what you need sometimes."

It was the first two-goal lead by the Capitals in the series and just their second in the playoffs.

The Rangers had a golden opportunity to climb back in the game about a minute after Chimera's goal when Capitals center Jeff Halpern, who replaced injured center Jay Beagle, took a four-minute hick-sticking penalty on New York center John Mitchell, cutting him on the bridge of his nose.

The Rangers failed to mount much of an attack during the extended man-advantage and were actually outshot 2-1 by the Capitals, who failed to convert on a shorthanded blast by Mike Green.

"Great team effort," Hendricks said. "Ovi started it with a power play goal and our penalty killers killed off some big penalties tonight. But I think the No. 1 performer was Holtby in net. He came out to play tonight and now we get to move on to a Game 7."

NOTES: Capitals checking line center Jay Beagle missed the game with an apparent left leg injury and was replaced in the lineup by little-used veteran Jeff Halpern. Beagle, who ranks fifth among Washington forwards with an average of 18:25 of ice time in the playoffs, suffered the injury when he blocked a shot by Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman in the second period of Game 5 in New York. Halpern, who was a healthy scratch the previous 19 games, played on a fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin. The Capitals' checking line consisted of Matt Hendricks, Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward. ... Entering Game 6, nine of the Rangers' 12 playoff games had been decided by one goal. Eleven of the Capitals' 12 games also were decided by one goal. ... The Rangers entered Game 6 leading the NHL with 416 hits in the playoffs and had five players ranked in the top 15 - Ryan Callahan (1st, 58), Michal Del Zotto (10th, 38), Brandon Prust (11th, 37), Dan Girardi (12th, 36) and Brian Boyle (15th, 35). ... The Capitals and Rangers entered Game 6 ranked first and second in blocked shots with 269 and 242, respectively. Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi (44) and Ryan McDonagh (35) ranked first and second, followed by Washington's John Carlson (34).
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