WASHINGTON – It didn’t take long for Alex Ovechkin’s latest masterpiece of a goal to wind up on YouTube.
Matt Bradley’s first two career playoff goals also wound up on that Web site. And those are the scores the Washington Capitals kept talking about Friday night, the scores the Capitals know are allowing them to keep playing this season.
Superstar Ovechkin and little-known Bradley provided the bulk of the offence, rookie Simeon Varlamov posted his second shutout of the opening round, and the Capitals beat the New York Rangers 4-0 in Game 5 on Friday night to avoid elimination.
The seventh-seeded Rangers hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Sunday in New York.
“They only have to win one. We have to win two. The pressure’s all on us,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You look at the odds, the odds definitely don’t favour us.”
Still, the Rangers have plenty to think about:
-Coach John Tortorella threw a plastic drinking bottle into the stands in a confrontation with a spectator;
-Tortorella benched Sean Avery after the agitator took two late penalties in Game 4;
-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist, so good for most of the series, was pulled after allowing four goals in two periods;
-New York’s power play has gone 0-for-18 over the past four games.
“Something has to give with our top guys. I’m not trying to insult them. We have some great guys in that room,” said Tortorella, who wouldn’t discuss his faceoff with the fan or his reasons for sitting Avery.
“This is a game where your best players have to be your best players, and it won’t happen until our best players are our best players – not kids.”
Alexander Semin also scored for Washington, which is in a familiar position: It faced a 3-1 deficit against Philadelphia in the first round last season before forcing Game 7 – only to lose at home in overtime.
Washington picked up momentum Friday from an unlikely source. Bradley is a 30-year-old right wing who had never recorded a goal in 21 previous career post-season games.
He ranked 17th on the Capitals in points during the regular season – behind Ovechkin and Semin and Mike Green, of course, but also trailing some stay-at-home defencemen – with of five goals, one over the final 42 games.
Yet Bradley scored twice in less than 7 1/2 minutes Friday.
“You need goals, any way you can get them, and when a player like that comes up with a couple for you, it’s huge in games like this,” Capitals general manager George McPhee said.
“He just elevated the team.”
The first was short-handed and came on the game’s first shot, before five minutes had elapsed. Several Capitals skated over to pile on Bradley, knocking him to the ice.
On the second, Bradley squeezed the puck past Lundqvist from a seemingly impossible angle.
“Every great goalie, every now and again, makes a mistake,” Boudreau said.
“I’m not going to lie: I wasn’t try to score like that,” he said. “I was just trying to get it on net.”
Suddenly, it was Bradley 2, Rangers 0, and he was receiving celebratory head-butts on the helmet from Ovechkin.
Lundqvist started hearing loud taunts of “Hen-rik! Hen-rik!” from the red-clad crowd. Later, the fans were yelling “M-V-P!” for Ovechkin after his spectacular goal with 29 seconds left in the second period.
Ovechkin led the league in goals each of the past two seasons and is the reigning MVP, but Lundqvist held him without a goal until Game 4. Now Ovechkin has scored in consecutive games.
He brought the puck across the blue line and, moving to his right, swept past Rangers captain Chris Drury. Then, swerving to his left, Ovechkin curled around Derek Morris while passing the puck to himself through the defenceman’s legs.
Ovechkin kicked the puck back onto his stick, then found Aaron Voros hanging on his back. As both fell to the ice – Ovechkin face-first, Voros hanging on like a football tackler – Ovechkin lifted a backhander past Lundqvist.
“My backhand was terrible,” Ovechkin said. “Lucky bounce.”
Perhaps. But thanks to a star turn from Bradley, and another superb night from Varlamov, Ovechkin’s team felt much better after Friday’s game than before it.
“We love the situation,” Ovechkin said. “It’s hard, but we love it.”
Notes: The last time an NHL team came back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series was in 2004, when Montreal did it against Boston. … Varlamov has allowed three goals in four games since replacing Jose Theodore after Game 1.