The top-seeded New York Rangers will try to regain the lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals when they visit the Washington Capitals for tonight's Game 3 battle at the Verizon Center.
The Rangers opened this series by taking Saturday's Game 1 in 3-1 fashion, but the seventh-seeded Capitals responded with a 3-2 victory on Monday at Madison Square Garden to even the set at one win apiece.
Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal with 7:27 remaining in the third period of Game 2 and Washington held on for the victory. It was the third goal of this postseason for Ovechkin, who logged only 13 minutes, 36 seconds of ice time in the win.
Braden Holtby stopped 26 New York shots on Monday after getting beat for three goals on just 14 shots in Game 1.
Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera supplied first-period goals for the surprising Capitals, who beat second-seeded Boston in the opening round, eliminating last year's Stanley Cup champions in seven games. Washington has yet to lose back- to-back games in this year's playoffs.
Washington led the game 2-0 in the first period, but the Rangers rallied and eventually tied the game on Ryan Callahan's goal at 6:58 of the third period.
However, New York was whistled for consecutive infractions later in the third, leading to Ovechkin's game-winner. Washington failed to cash in the first power play, but Ovechkin restored the lead four seconds into a Brad Richards holding penalty. Nicklas Backstrom won a draw in the left circle and Ovechkin shifted from the point to the middle of the New York zone before snapping a long shot past the glove of New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
"Nicky (Backstrom) wins a face-off and I kind of turned and felt like I was going to have some pressure," said Ovechkin. "But when I turned I saw nobody come to me. Brouwsie (Washington forward Troy Brouwer) did a great job going to the front of the net. It was kind of a lucky shot."
Lundqvist, a Hart and Vezina Trophy finalist this season, made 22 saves in the Game 2 loss. Before taking the costly holding penalty in the third, Richards scored a first-period goal for the Rangers.
"You battle back as hard as we did, you can't take four minutes in penalties," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella.
Washington was 1-2 on home ice in the first round against Boston, but the Capitals had a solid 26-11-4 record as the host during the regular season. New York had a 24-12-5 record away from MSG this season and was 2-1 at Ottawa in this year's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, which the Rangers won in seven games.
"They're a good team and we're not expecting this to be easy at all," Lundqvist said of the Capitals. "It's going to be a challenge to go into their building and try to get a couple of wins."
Rangers forward Brian Boyle returned to the lineup Monday after missing three games with a concussion. He was injured on a hit by Ottawa's Chris Neil. However, New York forward Brandon Dubinsky is questionable again tonight after sitting out the first two games of this series with a lower-body injury suffered in Game 7 against the Senators.
The Capitals are in the second round for the third time in four seasons, but Washington hasn't made it to the conference finals since 1998, when it earned the franchise's only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
New York, which won the Atlantic Division title this season, is the top seed in the East for the first time since it won its last Stanley Cup title in 1994. The Rangers are aiming for their first conference finals appearance since 1997.
This marks the seventh playoff series between the Rangers and Capitals and Washington has taken four of those six matchups. The Capitals beat New York in the conference quarterfinals in both 2009 and 2011, winning last year's series in just five games. The last time the Rangers defeated Washington was in the 1994 conference semifinals.
Game 4 of this series is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Washington.