At a glance: Rattling off two straight wins at home, the Rangers evened their first-round series against the Capitals 2-2 and gained momentum heading into Game 5 in D.C. After seeing a 2-0 series lead dissolve, the Caps aim to exploit home-ice advantage Friday night at the Verizon Center.
Hart nod for Ovechkin: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was named one of three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy on Friday morning. The forward joined Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and the Isles' John Tavares in the running for the award, given annually for the “player judged most valuable to his team.” Ovechkin finished the regular season with 14 goals in 13 games during the month of April, but has recently received criticism for his underwhelming performances in Games 3 and 4 against the Rangers. Ovechkin was on the ice for both of the Rangers’ game-winning goals, neither of which he did much to stop.
Stepping up: After a point in each of the Caps' wins to start the series, Ovechkin has since been held off the score sheet. Washington’s top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson have combined for only one point the past two games. Second-line center Mike Ribeiro, a top producer in the regular-season with 49 points, has been limited to just one point this season, in addition to linemate Troy Brouwer. The Rangers are looking for some of their stars to step up as well. Rick Nash, who led the Rangers with 21 goals in the regular season, and captain Ryan Callahan have both been held to one assist apiece in the series.
Playoff debut: Recalled from the AHL’s Hershey Bears on Thursday, 19-year-old winger Tom Wilson will make his NHL debut for the Capitals Friday night. The 2012 first-round draft pick (16th overall) was summoned from the minors in wake of an injury to Washington’s Martin Erat, who suffered what appeared to be a left forearm injury during the first period of Game 4 on Wednesday. Wilson, who has been skating with the Capitals crew of “black aces”, finished with 23 goals, 58 points and 104 penalty minutes for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. He is expected to play on the Caps' fourth line with Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle.
Staal out: Injured Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who returned for Game 3 after missing two months with an injured right eye but then missed Game 4, will not play Friday night. The 26-year-old blue-liner didn’t go divulge whether he suffered a setback, but said that he did not feel comfortable playing on Wednesday. “I wasn’t able to go,” he said. “I’m not gonna go into any details of what happened, but I wasn’t able to play.” Depth defenseman Steve Eminger, who replaced him in the lineup for Game 4, will play instead.