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Ovie sets pace for Caps vs. Rangers

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WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals know they own the most effective power play in the NHL this season.

They also know it's vital to convert chances against their first-round playoff opponent, the New York Rangers, who were whistled for the fewest penalties in the league.

So after starting 0 for 3 in extra-man situations in Game 1 on Thursday night and trailing -- "We feel, like, a little bit maybe nervous," Ovechkin explained afterward -- the Capitals got a big boost when their captain put the puck in the net on their fourth power play.

Ovechkin's franchise-record 31st career playoff goal got Washington started before less-heralded teammates Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera scored 46 seconds apart, Braden Holtby made 35 saves, and the Capitals came back to beat the Rangers 3-1 to begin the series.

When Washington defenceman Mike Green sent the puck past the net nearly seven minutes into the second period, it ricocheted off the boards and right to a charging Ovechkin, who flipped the puck past Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-1.

"Kind of a lucky bounce," Ovechkin acknowledged, "but I'll take it."

Carl Hagelin had put sixth-seeded New York ahead 1-0 in the first period -- the only puck that made it past Holtby.

"We kind of hung him out to dry once or twice," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said about the second-year goalie, "and he helped us out with some huge stops."

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Washington.

It's the third consecutive season these two teams are facing each other in the playoffs and the fourth time in five years. The Rangers eliminated the Capitals in seven games in the second round last season.

But Washington is playing a livelier brand of hockey under first-time NHL head coach Adam Oates, a Hockey Hall of Fame forward who shifted Ovechkin from left wing to right wing and helped design the Capitals' league-best power play.

Oates also is not as apt to demand that his players sit back and protect a lead, the way his predecessor, Dale Hunter, did.

"We play more well-rounded now," defenceman Karl Alzner said. "We have guys that can score goals and are allowed to go up there and do their thing. There's really no reins on anybody."

The Rangers drew six minor penalties, matching their regular-season high.

"Against a power play like that, if you're killing that much, eventually they're going to capitalize," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "They've got enough talent out there to do that, and we've just got to stay out of the box."

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 C3

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