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Published May 17, 2017
Joel Ward wanted Alex Ovechkin to hear him over the din at Madison Square Garden.
So, the depth forward screamed at his superstar teammate.
Maybe he should do it more often.
Ward got Ovechkin's attention and drove the Russian's feed past Henrik Lundqvist with 1.3 seconds left to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night in Game 1 of their second-round series.
"I took a hard whack at it and it went in," Ward said.
After the goal was confirmed by replay, Ovechkin kissed Ward on the cheek.
"I heard (Ward) screaming so loud," Ovechkin said. "I just wanted to throw the puck (to him). As soon as I went to the bench and I saw the replay, it was a clear goal. We'll take it."
Following a mostly ceremonial faceoff, the teams skirmished at center ice, sparked by New York's displeasure that Nicklas Backstrom wasn't penalized for hitting Dan Boyle from behind on the play that led to Ward's goal. To a man, the Rangers acknowledged that they let up, expecting referees Chris Rooney and Kelly Sutherland to blow the play dead.
"I saw (Boyle) get hit (and) go down," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "I kind of hesitated."
Ovechkin opened the scoring with a power play goal with 1:47 remaining in the first period. Jesper Fast tied it with 4:39 left in the third, tipping Kevin Hayes' point shot past goalie Braden Holtby.
Holtby made 31 saves, and Lundqvist stopped 27 shots.
Game 2 is Saturday in New York.
"I don't care," New York coach Alain Vigneault said, when asked if the 12:30 p.m. start for Game 2 could benefit his team. "We'll play whatever time the game is."
The Capitals ended a two-game losing streak against New York in the playoffs. Washington also lost three of the four regular-season meetings with the Rangers.
"They're a very talented team," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said about the Rangers, who finished the regular season with the most points and wins in franchise history. "There's a reason that they finished No. 1 in the regular season."
In the first period, with New York center Dominic Moore in the penalty box for holding, Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone and whipped a shot past Lundqvist from the top of the left circle for his third goal of the playoffs.
In 27 career playoff games against the Rangers, Ovechkin has 11 goals and 10 assists. He led the NHL during the regular season with 53 goals, 25 power-play goals and 11 game-winning goals.
Ovechkin's goal was Washington's first playoff score against Lundqvist in 138:13 dating to Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
"He's a rare talent in this league," Trotz said about Ovechkin. "He's very similar to Mark Messier. Those rare talents that can play a very heavy game (and) intimidate you with speed. He can intimidate you with his skill and his physicality."
Holtby was aided by some misfires from New York's shooters.
In the second, Carl Hagelin pushed Fast's cross-ice feed wide of the net. Later in the period, Derick Brassard couldn't jam a loose puck in the crease past Holtby. Martin St. Louis' slap shot from the slot 3:56 into the third was blocked by Karl Alzner.
"Adjustments will be made," New York center Derek Stepan said. "One of the biggest adjustments will be shooting more pucks."
Lundqvist was strong, too. He made a glove save on Backstrom with 5:28 left in the second. In the third, he stopped Brooks Laich's wraparound attempt and John Carlson's off-wing drive.
"It's a tough one, it really stinks," Lundqvist said. "We will regroup and come back."
NOTES: New York right wing Mats Zuccarello is sidelined by an upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the Rangers' 2-1 overtime victory in Game 5 against Pittsburgh. Without Zuccarello, New York coach Alain Vigneault reconfigured three of his four forward lines. St. Louis was moved up to the top line with Brassard and Rick Nash. Fast replaced St. Louis on the third line with Hayes and Hagelin. James Sheppard was activated for the first time in the playoffs and skated on the fourth line with Moore and Tanner Glass. ... Washington was without Eric Fehr. He missed his fifth straight game with an undisclosed injury sustained in the first round against the New York Islanders. Michael Latta was scratched. ... This series marks the ninth time New York and Washington have met in the playoffs. They have split the previous eight series, 4-4.