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Rout Gets Caps Home

With Decisive Victory, Capitals Force Game 7 in Washington

Three Capitals defensemen score in the first period and Simeon Varlamov stops 29 shots to help Washington defeat the New York Rangers, 5-3, forcing a Game 7 Tuesday at Verizon Center.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 27, 2009

NEW YORK, April 26 -- Tom Poti's most productive game as an NHL player couldn't have come at a more critical time for the Washington Capitals.

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With his team facing a hostile Madison Square Garden crowd and possible elimination for the second straight game, Poti scored a goal and helped set up three more to lead the Capitals to an almost-too-easy-to-believe 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers, who played without Coach John Tortorella.

Game 7 is Tuesday at Verizon Center, which will host a decisive first-round contest for the second consecutive season.

"You have to get scoring from everyone in the playoffs," said Poti, who had a total of 13 points in an injury-plagued regular season. "You can't have your big guys scoring night in and night out. You have to have your grinders and your role players score some goals, too."

On Friday, the unlikely hero of Game 5 was checking-line winger Matt Bradley. On Sunday afternoon, it was Poti's turn.

Poti's second goal of the playoffs capped a first period in which the Capitals received goals from three defensemen (Milan Jurcina and Mike Green also tallied). More important, it disheartened the Rangers and turned the capacity crowd against the home team.

By the end of the second period, the Capitals were ahead 5-1, the Rangers were being booed relentlessly and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was being mocked after simple saves. Whatever momentum the Rangers had five days ago when they opened a three-games-to-one lead, it was gone.

With two wins in a row, the momentum belongs to the Capitals now. And they've got two Rangers -- Lundqvist and Tortorella -- to thank for it.

Lundqvist almost single-handedly won Games 1, 2 and 4. But he's been decidedly ordinary in the past two, and on Sunday, he watched from the bench in the third period for the second straight game after yielding five goals on 20 shots (nine on 34 going back to Game 5).

"He can't play every game like a god," said Alex Ovechkin, who notched his third goal of the playoffs in the second period. "He can't save the game all the time."

Tortorella, meantime, was suspended late Saturday night for one game after tossing a water bottle into the Verizon Center stands in the third period of Friday's game. He was replaced by assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld, who, ironically enough, was banned for one game after famously telling referee Don Koharski to "have another doughnut" during the 1988 Eastern Conference finals.

Before the game, Schoenfeld said Tortorella stood for his players when he confronted a heckler in Washington. But the move also left the Rangers without the man who had given them direction when they had lost their way, the man who had figured out which buttons to press when no one else could.

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