Capitals, Rangers will go the limit

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby watches the puck deflect behind him for a Rangers goal during...

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby watches the puck deflect behind him for a Rangers goal during Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2012. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. - They've eliminated the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Why not vanquish the No. 1 seed from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as well?

The Washington Capitals are a win away from accomplishing as much, riding a 30-save performance by Braden Holtby to beat the New York Rangers 2-1 Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.

The series-deciding seventh game of the conference semifinal will be played Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Alex Ovechkin again didn't get the kind of ice time he is used to, but he demonstrated the skills and determination that have made him so valuable as the Caps' captain. Ovechkin opened the scoring, hustled, blocked shots and had a scoring chance in the third period when he was sliding toward the Rangers net on his butt. He would have had two goals had he not hit the crossbar in the first period.

This after Ovechkin didnt have a shot on goal in Game 5, just the second time in his career that has happened in the playoffs.

He is our leader, he is our captain, so he should be doing that out there, leading by example, and he did tonight, Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said. He got on the board early, had a couple big body checks and making sure his presence was known out there. He is working hard. He knows in tight situations he is not the guy we look to, but if we need goals, he is going to be on the ice every time.

Ovechkin played a total of 15 minutes 14 seconds and acknowledged he wanted to make a statement.

I think everybody did, Ovechkin said. Its not about me, it is about everybody. Of course, I am going to do my best.

We dont want to stop playing and finish the season. We knew we could beat them.

Washington will need that kind of effort from their best player again on Saturday. Has Ovechkin bought what coach Dale Hunter has been selling? Certainly looks that way.

If Holtby was rattled by the Caps' collapse late in Game 5 Monday, he left those nerves back in Manhattan. The 22-year-old didn't have to be spectacular, but was solid, square in his crease to meet just about every Rangers shot and steering aside each with confidence.

Holtby has gone 29 consecutive starts without losing back-to-back games, including the regular season.

Now, the Rangers have to worry about being ousted by the Caps, who started the post-season as the No. 7 seed in the East.

Jason Chimera also scored for the Capitals, who are 4-0 in Game 6s since 2008 when facing elimination.

Marian Gaborik scored for the Rangers with 50.5 seconds remaining.

The Rangers didn't have a raft of great scoring chances with Jeff Halpern serving a double-minor in the second period, but Holtby had to be sharp to make a toe save on defenceman Dan Girardi. Naturally, the crowd of 18,506 roared as Halpern scooted out of the box.

Washington took a 2-0 lead at 10:59 of the second period. Alexander Semin didn't get an assist, but it was his strength on the puck behind the Rangers net that got the play started.

Semin held off defenceman Marc Staal, even falling at one point, but didn't lose the puck. Eventually, John Carlson's point shot was deflected slightly by Nicklas Backstrom, and the puck went to Chimera.

With Henrik Lundqvist committed to stop the Carlson shot that never arrived, Chimera tapped the puck into the open net.

Ovechkin opened the scoring at 1:28 of the first during a Washington power play, his 30th goal in his 50th playoff game.

We knew they were going to come out hard, Girardi said. It was a tough start. We tried to play from there (after the first goal). They worked hard, put a lot of pressure on us.

Its going to be a hard game (on Saturday). Were lucky to have the Garden faithful behind us.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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