WASHINGTON — Back a few seasons ago, when Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were helping the Washington Capitals finally start to emerge from years of rebuilding with a go-go, attacking style, the team promoted its high-scoring core group with the slogan "Young Guns."
These days, the Capitals are succeeding in the playoffs with a more conservative, defensive-minded style — and it still never hurts when the best of the best put the puck in the net.
Defenseman Green's slap shot on a power play with 5:48 left in regulation was the go-ahead goal, and Ovechkin and Backstrom scored Saturday, too, lifting the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the top-seeded New York Rangers that tied their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
When the bygone marketing tag was mentioned in the loud Capitals locker room afterward, the 26-year-old Green repeated the reporter's words, saying with a wry smirk: " 'Young Guns'? Not so young anymore. But we needed to step up."
According to STATS LLC, it was the 13th time in their Capitals careers — all were first-round draft picks — that Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green scored in the same game, but first in any postseason. Washington's record in those games? Not surprisingly, 13-0. That trio last tallied together on Oct. 30, 2010, STATS said.
"People have been talking about (how) we need to step up," said Backstrom, who missed 40 games in the regular season with a concussion and hadn't scored since Game 2 of the opening round against Boston. "If you work hard, good things happen to you, somebody told me."
Ovechkin made it 1-0 about 121/2 minutes into the game with a 40-foot slap shot after Rangers rookie Chris Kreider accidentally sent the puck to the two-time NHL MVP's stick. In the second period, Ovechkin's skates left the ice as he delivered a high hit to defenseman Dan Girardi, a play that resulted in a charging penalty against the Russian wing and could draw attention from the league office.
"My head's kind of there," Girardi said, "and he hits it."
Ovechkin, treated for a bloody upper lip in the third period, said he was trying to protect himself and thought he caught Girardi in the shoulder, not the head.
Capitals coach Dale Hunter offered this analysis: "It was incidental contact, where both of them were looking down and they hit each other."
Rangers coach John Tortorella's take? Who knows? He declined to answer a general question about the officiating and walked out of his news conference after about 30 seconds.
On the go-ahead goal, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan got knocked down along the boards and lost the puck, which went to Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman. He slid the puck over to a wide-open Green, who slammed into the glass after releasing his shot from the right circle.
"I didn't see the puck," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "I was pretty much just guessing where it was going."