Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his third...

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his third period game-winning goal against the New York Rangers. (April 30, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

In the playoffs, mistakes are magnified.

Until 6:58 of the third period Monday night, when Ryan Callahan tipped in Michael Del Zotto's point shot on the power play to tie Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, the Rangers couldn't make the Washington Capitals pay for their errors.

But the Capitals took full advantage of three Rangers mistakes. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who had played just 9:14 through two periods, fired in a power-play goal at 12:33 to snap a 2-2 tie, and with the 3-2 victory, Washington evened the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. The next two games are at Verizon Center tomorrow and Saturday.

"There were too many things for free," coach John Tortorella said. "You battle back as hard as we did, you can't take four minutes in penalties."

Just three minutes after Callahan's tying goal, the Capitals had their first chance to regain the lead on a power play with Brian Boyle, who had missed the previous three games with a concussion, off for holding John Carlson's stick.

Henrik Lundqvist made two big pad saves on Ovechkin and the penalty-kill prevailed. Then, at 12:29, Brad Richards interfered with Carlson at the blue line, a costly move. "The guy came in front of me, I've got to keep my hands down," Richards said. "You can't take another one there."

Four seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff from the left circle back to Ovechkin, who curled to the center and fired with Lundqvist screened by Troy Brouwer in front.

"First I saw it when he was about to shoot, then I didn't see it, then I saw it," Lundqvist said. "Somebody got tied up and he got a free lane. It's the wrong guy to get that opportunity."

Lundqvist, who got caught in no-man's land behind the net on the Caps' second goal, was pulled with slightly more than a minute to go. Del Zotto hit the crossbar with a shot, but the Rangers could not dent Braden Holtby (26 saves). Earlier in the third, Del Zotto also beat Holtby glove side, but his shot rang off the post.

So just like the first round against the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers won the first game of the series at home, then lost the second.

"I think we let up a little bit in the second period. They started to win some battles and started to take the momentum," Callahan said. "They were more desperate than they were [in Game 1]. I think we need to raise our level."

A wild first period ended with the Rangers scoring late after falling behind 2-0. With the teams playing four-on-four, Marian Gaborik, skating toward the net from the right side, juked Jeff Schultz and passed to Richards for a tap-in just inside the post with 42.4 seconds left.

The Rangers, who finished with 21 hits in the first, kept the Capitals penned in, but Holtby made 10 saves. Yet the Caps, who ended the first 20 minutes with 10 blocked shots, struck first. Defenseman Stu Bickel muffed a play near the blue line, and on the rush down ice, Joel Ward found Mike Knuble at the right post at 12:20.

Just 5:14 later, Jason Chimera raced down ice to steal the puck from Lundqvist, who had gone behind the net to stop it. Chimera threw it in front and Lundqvist dived back in an attempt to stop Matt Hendricks' between-the-legs backhand try, with Anton Stralman down as well. The puck went under the goaltender, Chimera got a piece of it on the goal line near the right post, and he chipped it off Ryan McDonagh's skate and in.

"I had to wait for it. I was just on the line [of the trapezoid, which would have been a penalty]," Lundqvist said. "It just died so I couldn't play it. He stopped it and it was just a big scramble. It was just a bad break."

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