The Madison Square Garden crowd hasn't been kind to Alex Ovechkin during Games 1 and 2 of the second-round series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
At the eight-minute mark of every period, the Blueshirt faithful have started an "Ovi Sucks!" chant. That was all well and good in a Game 1 win. But Monday night the chant turned against them. The Caps scored as the cheer began in the first period. And then, with the game tied 2-2 late in the third period, Ovi silenced them yet again with a power-play goal that turned out to be the game winner.
As Ovi celebrated after the goal, he put his left glove up to his ear, trying to hear the hushed MSG crowd.
And that's just the way he wanted it.
Ovechkin once again didn't get a lot of playing time (just over 13 minutes), but he made it count with the power-play chance late in the game. Nicklas Backstrom won the faceoff in the left circle clean to Ovi at the point. He glided toward the middle of the ice and fired a wrister on goal. Troy Brouwer did a nice job of screening Henrik Lundqvist and the puck found its way into the back of the net.
"Kind of lucky shot, I think," Ovi said with a smile after the game.
The goal killed what was turning out to be a ferocious comeback by the Rangers. The Caps had taken a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by two unheralded forwards -- Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera.
But the Rangers battled back, scoring late in the first period to cut the lead to 2-1, and then Ryan Callahan tied it in the third with a power-play tally by Ryan Callahan on a shot from the point by Michael Del Zotto that was tipped on the way in by John Carlson and then apparently by Callahan.
It looked as if the Rangers were about to take control, but the Rangers took several penalties to kill their momentum, including the crucial one against Brad Richards that led to the Ovechkin goal.
"We did a very good job in the Boston series by bouncing back after getting scored on, and we did it again tonight," Holtby said.
The Rangers had several glorious chances late in the third period, but the iron was kind to Braden Holtby, as two Del Zotto shots banged off the post and crossbar.
Early on, the Capitals withstood the Rangers' barrage and eventually opened the scoring thanks to a Blueshirt miscue at the point. As the "Ovi Sucks!" chant rained down from the crowd, Stu Bickel tried to force a pass just inside the offensive zone to his fellow defenseman, but the puck went right to the Caps, and they started the other way on an odd-man rush. The puck eventually got to Joel Ward's stick on the left side in the Rangers' zone. He made a pass to Keith Aucoin cutting down the slot, and Aucoin quickly dished it back to him. Then Ward spotted a streaking Knuble, and fired the pass into the crease, where Knoobs potted the puck into the back of the net. Tick-tack-toe.
The next Caps' goal came after Holtby stoned Chris Kreider on a breakaway after the rookie bolted from the penalty box. A miscue by Carlson at the point allowed Kreider to skate in alone, but Holtby was up to the challenged. The play continued back down to the other end, where Chimera raced to a loose puck and got there ahead of Lundqvist. He threw the puck into the crease, and Matt Hendricks tried an impressive between-the-legs move that was stopped by a diving Lundqvist. Chimera, however, followed up and pushed the puck back into the crease, where it bounced off of Ryan McDonagh's skate and into the net.
"It wasn't pretty," Chimera recalled after the game.
The Rangers raced back and scored the next two, but Ovi found a way to win it in the end. He didn't have a lot of playing time, but his coach said he's a team guy and knows what it takes to win.
"You need everybody, and Ovi's a team guy," coach Dale Hunter said. "He knows these guys have to go out and slide and block shots. He appreciates that from the Beagles and the Hendricks of our team."
So now the Caps head back to the Verizon Center for Games 3 and 4, and have taken home-ice advantage away from the Rangers.
"It's going to be great to be back in Verizon Center and see the home crowd," Backstrom said after the game. "It's probably going to be a good atmosphere back there."