Ovechkin sends Caps into Game 7 with Rangers

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Ovechkin sends Caps into Game 7 with Rangers

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lose one game, win the next. No matter how seemingly devastating a defeat, in overtime or otherwise, the Washington Capitals -- from two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin to playoff rookie goalie Braden Holtby -- simply do not allow setbacks to bother them. They regroup, get back out there and follow a loss with a victory, each time by the slimmest of margins. Ovechkin rebounded from a rare zero-shot performance by scoring after 88 seconds Wednesday night, Holtby made 30 saves, and the Capitals recovered the way they always seem to, beating the top-seeded New York Rangers 2-1 to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series. "We're resilient," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We have that thick skin. We know when to battle back when we need to and have to." Never moreso than after Game 5 on Monday night, when No. 7-seeded Washington managed to blow a lead in the last 10 seconds of regulation. New York scored a power-play goal with 7.6 seconds left in the third period to tie it, and another 1 12 minutes into overtime to win it. The Capitals could have folded. Instead, they staved off elimination, and the teams will meet in New York on Saturday night to determine who will face the New Jersey Devils in the conference finals. "It's where we want to be," Holtby said. "We didn't expect a short series." He improved to 6-0 in games immediately after losses this postseason. That's why the Capitals are 4-0 in games that follow overtime losses in the playoffs. One other bit of proof that they know how to bounce back: They haven't lost consecutive games since March 22-23. "Everyone, I think, counted us out," said Jason Chimera, who scored in the second period to make it 2-0, Washington's second two-goal lead of the series. "This is the way we are. ... We don't really crack." Ovechkin's reduced role became a major talking point throughout these playoffs: Usually a 20-minute-a-game guy, he played as few as 13 12 minutes in Game 2 against New York. He also came up quiet in Game 5 on Monday night, with no shots on goal, only the second time in 49 career playoff games that had happened to the man they call Alex the Great. Before Wednesday's game, Ovechkin told reporters: "We just can't go home right now." He helped make sure they didn't yet. About 1 12 minutes after the opening faceoff, Ovechkin dropped to a knee as he powered a slap shot just inside the right post from about 30 feet in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It was Ovechkin's 30th career playoff goal, tying the franchise record held by Peter Bondra, and came 15 seconds after Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman was sent to the penalty box for tripping Chimera. Another miscue followed: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh wasted a chance to clear the puck, instead sending it along the boards right to a Capitals player. That giveaway led to a series of crisp passes by the Capitals -- Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were credited with assists -- and an animated earful for McDonagh from Rangers coach John Tortorella. That early edge proved to be a good omen for the Capitals, who are 7-1 this postseason when scoring first -- and 0-5 when their opponent scores first. In this series, all six games were won by whichever team led 1-0. "Obviously, we talked about coming out and starting well, and they get a goal right away on the power play. It kind of set the tone for the game," Lundqvist said. "From there, it was just hard for us to get going." Later in the first period, Ovechkin nearly scored one of his YouTube-ready, "How did he do that?" goals, somehow managing to lift the puck past Lundqvist while belly-flopping onto the ice. But the puck hit the crossbar. Then, at the opposite end of the rink, Ovechkin used his back to block a shot by McDonagh, preventing the puck from even approaching Holtby -- the sort of thing the Russian wing is not known for, but his teammates have turned into an art form this postseason. The Capitals rank No. 1 in blocked shots during these playoffs -- the Rangers are No. 2 -- and Washington put together a 24-6 edge Wednesday. Ovechkin contributed three blocks. "He had a lot of energy," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He's ready to go when he's called upon, and he played a good game tonight." A little more than a minute after Chimera made it 2-0, the Rangers got a good chance to change the tenor of Game 6, when Capitals forward Jeff Halpern -- playing for the first time in more than six weeks -- was called for high-sticking John Mitchell, a 4-minute double minor. That was the same penalty called on Washington's Joel Ward in the final 30 seconds of regulation in Game 5, while the Capitals nursed a 2-1 lead. And, well, we know how that turned out. This time, though, the Capitals' penalty killers were up to the task, allowing the Rangers only three shots and no goals. When Halpern skated out of the box, the lead intact, the red-clad Capitals fans gave their team a standing ovation. "It kills you," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. There was one final moment of trepidation for the Capitals and their supporters. With his mom covering her eyes in the stands, Holtby gave up a goal with 50.5 seconds left -- a score that was credited to Rangers forward Marian Gaborik, whose shot deflected off Capitals forward Matt Hendricks' skate and defenseman John Carlson's hip in the crease. Said Ward: "You kind of think, Oh, no. Not again!' But we're a confident group." NOTES: Game 7 starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT. ... The Rangers haven't reached the conference finals since 1997; the Capitals haven't since 1998. ... Capitals F Jay Beagle was scratched because of what the team said was a lower-body injury and replaced by Halpern, who hadn't played since March 23.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ needs line up well with the strength of the draft

Need to Know: Redskins’ needs line up well with the strength of the draft

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 25, one day before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 16
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 28
—Training camp starts (7/27) 92
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 137

Wrapping up the Redskins pre-draft presser

We’ve looked at a some of what Redskins college scouting director Scott Campbell said during his pre-draft press conference on Monday, covering possible trades, who makes the final call on those trades, and how the organization handles character issues. Here are a few more bullet points from Campbell’s presser:

—Asked if the Redskins would draft to fill needs or take the best available player, Campbell gave the stock answer. “I guess as you asked the question, you kind of framed it and the way I’m going to frame the answer, and the age-old answer of ‘I’m going to take the best player available,’” he said “And if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus.” So, there you go. That said, don’t be surprised if the best players as defined by the Redskins in the first few also happen have the “bonus” of filling one the team’s top two or three needs.

—The needs could line up well because the strength of the draft as Campbell sees it coincides with side of the ball where the Redskins need the most help. “Well, I’m excited because I think it’s one of the strongest, deepest classes on the defensive side of the ball that I’ve seen,” he said. “I’ve told the guys upstairs I’m excited because we’re going to get better . . . And several different positions – sometimes it’s just maybe defensive line or outside backers or corners. Across the board on defense, I’m really excited about the class and the guys we’re going to bring in are going to help us.”

—The draft board is still used after the draft ends and the scramble for undrafted free agents starts up. “There’s going to be guys left on the bottom of that board that didn’t get drafted that we had rated as draftable,” said Campbell. “So that’s our No. 1 targets. I assign a scout to all the coaches, and really the coaches talk to the players – once the draft ends, let me be clear, it’s after the draft ends when we start making calls – the scouts are on the phone with the agent finding out what our competition is, how much.” Campbell said that money isn’t much of a factor in recruiting the undrafted players; selling opportunity is the key.

—The draft board was influenced by former GM Scot McCloughan but adjustments have been made since he was fired in early March. “Well, he certainly had influence on it because we all met as we always did the last couple of years and every team does. You meet right after the all-star games before you go to the combine and kind of get an initial ranking of how you like the guys. Of course Scot hadn’t been here since, so just like when he was here before, there’s adjustments being made to the board with the new information.”

—The 2016 draft class did not contribute a lot but does not mean that there is more pressure on the organization to do better this year. The pressure is always there regardless. “Always pressure. Every year’s pressure,” said Campbell. “I grew up in an NFL household. My dad was a coach and a player for 40 years. Pressure every year to perform, that’s what the NFL is. You’ve got to perform every year.” His father was Marion Campbell who played in the NFL for eight years and then coached for 21 seasons including stints as the head coach of the Eagles and Falcons.

—Campbell also asked for a little patience with the 2016 draft class, citing a group from a few years ago. “It takes a couple of years to develop a class,” said Campbell. “People are saying the ‘14 class had some success. Well, if I read articles and see what happened and what was said right after that draft, our grades in the mock drafts were not very good. It takes time. Morgan Moses didn’t start his first year, you know, but he’s come on to be one of the best right tackles in the league. That’s my opinion anyway. It takes time to develop. I still think with time, that class [2016] will be just fine.” I guess I buried the lede here—Campbell reads draft grades.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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