It was Alex Ovechins first shot on goal in over 69 minutes of play, spanning three Eastern Conference Semifinal games, and boy did it count.
Just a minute and 28 seconds into the first period, the Russian Dynamo took a centering pass from Nicklas Backstrom and fired a slapshot over the catching glove of Henrik Lundqvist. It gave the Capitals an early lead and a surge of momentum carried on by a crowd of 18,506 at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night.
It gave us some confidence, Nicklas Backstrom said. We had a good start there and just kept going.
You can see how we start the hockey game. We get the puck deep, finish our checks and move our legs. We got a penalty and scored a goal, Ovechkin said.
The penalty was a two-minute tripping call on Anton Stralman, the Ranger who scored first for New York in Game 5. Jason Chimera drew the penalty at the 1:13 mark and the Caps were able to take advantage of it just 15 seconds later.
On the power play Capitals coach Dale Hunter adjusted form to give Ovechkin a better chance to score. Ovi was in the middle of the offensive zone and in perfect position for a slapshot as Washington rotated the puck.
It was one of those changes we made, we thought that Ovi with his big shot there could get a shot off, Hunter said.
One of their players fouled and really left an opening and a shot from there by Ovi doesnt miss very often.
Ovechkins goal was the 30th in his young playoff career, tying him for most in franchise history with Peter Bondra. It was his third point in the last three games and his third goal of the series. Only four NHL players have scored more playoff goals since Ovechkins 2008 postseason debut.
He had a lot of energy, he blocked shots, Hunter said. Hes ready to go when hes called upon and he played a good game tonight.
Ovechkin had several other good chances, including a net-crashing shot off the post and another near-score while sliding on his rear. But more than anything, Ovechkin set the tone for his teammates. He propelled them early after a historic loss in Game 5, one of the most devastating playoff defeats the franchise has ever seen. The Rangers came into the game looking to put the killshot on what they presumed was a broken down bunch feeling the anxiety of a potential season-ending game.
It felt like we were pretty far from where we have to be to win a game like this. It felt like we were not really close until the last 20 seconds, Lundqvist said.
We just have to go back home now and regroup and save all the energy we have left and play our best game of the playoffs here.
The Caps once again find themselves in a Game 7 on the road, their season on the line countered with a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Finals. No Washington, D.C. sports team has made it to the semifinals of their sport since the Hunter-captained Capitals reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. Ovechkin has an opportunity to lead his team to a place they have not been before as a group, and a city where it hasnt reached in 14 years.