The Rangers had a 6-foot-7, 244-pound gaping hole in the middle of their lineup dating back to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
It was filled last night with the return of Brian Boyle to the lineup.
Boyle played 15:20 in Game 2 last night. He finished with a shot on goal, six hits, a takeaway, a blocked shot and won six-of-14 faceoffs. Boyle had scored three goals in the first five games of the series against the Senators before leaving Game 5 with concussion symptoms following an open ice check by Chris Neil.
He was not in the dressing room after the game, and John Tortorella was not in a mood to evaluate the center’s play.
“I’m not going to assess it with you,” Tortorella said.
Alex Ovechkin, closer?
The Capitals’ captain played 4:22 of the 13:36 of ice time he received last night in the third period. His power-play rocket with 7:27 remaining was the game-winning goal.
Ovechkin skated to the middle of the ice after receiving Nicklas Backstrom’s clean faceoff win, then lasered a shot over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove.
“[I] felt like I was going to have some pressure, but when I turned I saw that nobody came to me,” Ovechkin said. “[Troy Brouwer] did a great job [going] to the front of the net and it was kind of a lucky shot.”
“That was a perfect shot,” Braden Holtby said. “Lundqvist had no chance. [Ovechkin] played it perfect to his credit. That’s why he’s one of the best goal-scorers in the league.”
During his pre-game press conference, Caps coach Dale Hunter dismissed the notion of moving Ovechkin away from matchups with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh.
“He’s always going to get Girardi no matter what, just like how he had [Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno] Chara last series,” Hunter said. “That’s the way it is. Ovi is hitting and driving to the net. This will happen.”
Despite the drastically limited ice time, Ovechkin took 10 shots — seven on goal and three others that were blocked. He threw two hits and had a blocked shot.
“He’s a team guy,” Hunter said of Ovechkin after the Caps evened the series. “The one thing about that is that he has been real fresh for the power play. The power play was good tonight [and] he actually got the winner on it. He was fresh to work on the offensive game.”
The NHL’s recognition of the Rangers’ success continued as Tortorella was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year. He was joined by St. Louis’s Ken Hitchcock and Ottawa’s Paul MacLean.
Lundqvist was named a finalist for the Vezina and Hart Trophies last week.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.