Aside from the third line, which has been a steady source of energy and momentum-building offensive shifts throughout the series, the Capitals initially looked tight — just as Oates feared.
“It was a great start, that’s what we wanted to do, come out strong,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. “Try to carry some of the momentum we had from the last two wins and I thought we did that.”
Washington took two penalties and it wasn’t until the end of the opening frame that the players began to look comfortable. But despite entering the second period trailing by one, the Capitals appeared to have finally found stable ground.
With 7:33 gone in the second period the Capitals got the opportunity they needed when Ribeiro drew a retaliatory slashing penalty on Boyle. Eleven seconds into its first power play of the night Washington cashed in.
From behind the net, Johansson found Joel Ward in the slot and the veteran winger pulled the Capitals even with a one-timer for his first goal of the postseason. Ward’s tally, which marked Washington’s third power play goal of the series but first since Game 2, released some of the tension in the building and on the ice for those clad in red.
“It was just a little wake-up call,” Ward said. “I can’t really explain exactly what happened, but they got off to their early start and we just wanted to just kind of get the nerves out there at the start and feed off the crowd for the game.”
The power play might have tied the game but the Capitals penalty kill also shined in the second period as the unit thwarted two minor penalties — Jack Hillen for holding and Carlson for shooting the puck over the glass — in the final 5:07.
“Second and third period we was very patient, play our game, put puck deep and wait our chances. Chances was there but Lundqvist was very good tonight,” Ovechkin said, explaining what he saw on those tight opportunities. “I was too close for him, I should put puck a little higher but my job to shoot the puck his job to stop the puck. He won the battle at that moment, it’s kind of when it’s coming you’re going to have chances.”
As the tied contest inched closer toward overtime Lundqvist continued to show why the Rangers have been confident building a team around him for so many years. The Capitals out-shot New York 13-4 in the third period but Lundqvist remained unfazed as he soaked up shots to send the teams to overtime for the second time in the series.
While the contest might not have begun the way the Capitals would have envisioned, that is far from their focal point following its conclusion.
“I think we just want to go on to the next game and end this,” Ward said. “It’s not how we started, but how we ended it. We ended up with a win, and we’re just worried about the next game now.”