Rangers score late, hold on for wild win
In their long, tortured Stanley Cup playoff history, the Capitals had never once won the first three games of a series.
That remains true now, and any thoughts of quickly dispatching the New York Rangers this spring are gone. Six power-play opportunities helped New York in its 4-3 victory over the Caps in an Eastern Conference first-round game at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Derek Stepan deflected home the game-winning goal with 6:25 remaining. New York then survived a late Washington power play with 1:54 left that became a 6-on-4 when goalie Braden Holtby was pulled from his net for an extra attacker.
The Rangers pulled to within 2-1 in the series with Game 4 set for Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Caps have still never won the first three games of any seven-game playoff series in 21 attempts. Even their record in playoff series when taking a 2-0 lead is a pedestrian 4-5 in the nine times it's happened. They are now 0-7 all-time in Game 3s after winning the first two games of a seven-game series.
"It was a heavyweight fight," Washington defenseman Steve Oleksy said. "Obviously we had a couple breakdowns and they capitalized on those."
The Rangers technically only scored on one of their six power-play chances. But forward Brian Boyle, playing in his second game back from a right leg injury, added another tally exactly as man-advantage expired. The Caps were 0-for-3 on their power plays, including the failed final one where they couldn't manage a shot on goal despite that 6-on-4 advantage.
"They're doing a good job blocking," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We need to get it through. But I don't think we lost the game there."
It was a roller-coaster game. Backstrom got things started after just 4:06 with a goal that staked Washington to a 1-0 advantage. Boyle's score tied it. In the second period, Derick Brassard knocked home the Rangers' first true power-play goal of the series to put them ahead 2-1.
Caps defenseman Mike Green, the overtime hero in Game 2, scored again late in the second period to tie the game and set up a wild third period. Green's goal was the ninth in his career during the playoffs, which tied him for fifth all time in team history with Hall of Famers Scott Stevens and Larry Murphy.
Rangers forward Arron Asham and Caps forward Jay Beagle traded third-period goals to make it 3-3. But at 13:35, the New York forecheck struck again. Ryan McDonagh kept the puck in the offensive zone with some sweet stickwork and Rick Nash's shot was deflected home by center Derek Stepan for the eventual winner.
"These guys have been through this before. It's playoffs," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "You're not going to win every game. It was a hard-fought game. Obviously, there's lots of things we can fix. But you got to give them a little bit of credit. Their barn, they got a game back and we got to regroup."