Rangers' Lundqvist turns away Capitals
Henrik Lundqvist wasn't going to let a little-known rookie get the best of him for a second-straight night.
Two days after watching Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov completely baffle Ranger shooters, Lundqvist returned the favour to lift New York to a 2-1 victory Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Lundqvist made 38 saves, including 19 in the second period for the Rangers, who took a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarter-final matchup.
"He's like Tina Turner," said Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "He's 'Simply the Best.'"
New York can wrap up its best-of-seven series with a victory in Washington Friday night (7 p.m. ET).
Defenceman Paul Mara and captain Chris Drury powered the Rangers with a goal apiece.
Sniper Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for Washington, scoring his first post-season goal on the 32 shot.
Varlamov, who earned his first career playoff shutout on Monday night, turned aside 19 shots.
Lundqvist too good
The Capitals were all over New York on their first power play of the game, but couldn't get one past Lundqvist.
The Rangers goaltender was especially brilliant on three consecutive shots off the stick of Ovechkin.
"He's amazing, he's our heartbeat, and he gives everyone confidence that is playing in front of him," said Mara. "He's awesome. We love him. He's the king."
The Rangers opened the scoring at 13:55 of the first period after winning the draw. Mara scored when his point shot directed off the stick of Washington blue-liner John Erskine.
Markus Naslund was originally credited with the goal but informed officials he didn't touch the puck.
Drury returned to full duty on Wednesday night after playing only two shifts in Game 3. Drury has been bothered by what is believed to be a hand or wrist injury.
Nevertheless, he put New York ahead 2-0 just 2:23 into the second.
The Rangers centre fired a shot that Varlamov couldn't control with his glove, then followed up to beat the rookie netminder on the rebound.
"He is an easy guy to pull for," New York coach John Tortorella said of Drury. "He is an important guy in the locker room. He is much healthier, improving the last couple of days. I think he has things figured out."
Lundqvist continued to frustrate the Capitals in the second, sticking out his glove to rob Alexander Semin.
Ovechkin finally scored his first goal of the post-season in stunning fashion, cutting the Rangers' lead to 2-1 more than two minutes into the third.
Ovechkin picked up the loose puck following a faceoff in the Capitals zone, raced into New York's end before sending a laser off the far post.
The Capitals nearly pulled even during a power play midway through the third period, but Ovechkin's shot nailed the post and out of harms way.
"It's not done yet," said Ovechkin. "We were in this situation last year, and we came back. We got that experience, and it was good experience. We know how to come back."
Avery nearly costs Rangers
Ranger agitator Sean Avery did everything possible to give away the game, taking two needless penalties in the third period, which drew glares from Tortorella.
"We are to have to improve in a number of areas, starting with our discipline," Tortorella said, who declined to comment on Avery specifically. "I don’t know how many penalties we had. That is too good of a power play to be in the box. We are just going to have to get better."
Avery first bloodied Washington defenceman Milan Jurcina following a shot to the face with 9:39 remaining, and then high-sticked Brian Pothier with 3:06 left. Avery now has seven minor penalties in four games, including a misconduct.
"He runs our guy and it's a blatant high stick," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. "He plays hard. Sometimes he plays too hard."
Lundqvist, however, stood tall, denying the Capitals in the end.
Washington failed to score on six power-play chances on Wednesday, and is 4-for-22 in the series. The Rangers, meanwhile, have yet to score in their last 14 opportunities with a man advantage.
"It seems like we are throwing everything at him, and he's making great saves," Washington defenceman Mike Green said about Lundqvist. "They're playing well, but the good thing is that it's not over yet.
"We have one of the best power plays. We have no excuse. We need to be better."
With files from The Associated Press