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Too Little, Maybe Too Late

Capitals Fall Behind 3-1 to Rangers Despite Ovechkin's Third-Period Goal

Alex Ovechkin's first goal of the playoffs couldn't lead the Capitals past the Rangers, as Washington falls, 2-1, on Wednesday night and heads back home down 3-1.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 23, 2009

NEW YORK, April 22 -- The Washington Capitals haven't advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since their memorable run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1998.

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Now they find themselves on the verge of another first-round disappointment.

Henrik Lundqvist was sensational in the net for New York, stopping 38 shots, including all 19 he faced in the second period, and the Rangers' top-ranked penalty-kill unit extinguished six power plays to clinch a 2-1 victory over the Capitals in Game 4 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

Washington, which trails three games to one, will face elimination Friday at Verizon Center.

"We made some mistakes," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We left it all out there."

But it wasn't enough against Lundqvist and a Rangers team that benefited from a lucky bounce and a rare mistake by Capitals rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov (19 saves).

Washington already faced long odds after dropping the first two games of the series in the District. Now the second seed's odds are even longer. Teams that have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have only come back to win 8.7 percent of the time (20 of 229). The last time it happened was 2004, when Montreal rallied to beat Boston in the conference quarterfinals.

The Capitals nearly pulled it off last spring when they rallied from a two-game deficit against Philadelphia to a Game 7, which ended with the Flyers celebrating an overtime victory at Verizon Center. Boudreau and his players hope that experience will pay off this season.

"We're going to try," Boudreau said. "It's a different team, different year, different circumstances. But it's the same situation."

Added defenseman Tom Poti: "It was a learning experience for us last year. We've been playing great at some times, and really good at other times, but we're not getting the job done. We have to pick it up. [Lundqvist] made some awesome saves. But it's our job to score, and tonight we didn't do it."

Early in the third, Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the series to cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1. The reigning league MVP gathered a loose puck in New York's end, blasted through neutral ice and beat Lundqvist with a hard wrist shot that clanked loudly off the post and went in.

It was all the Capitals managed to squeeze past Lundqvist, despite Sean Avery's best attempt to help them.

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