In a stunning turnaround, Brad Richards scored a power-play goal with 6.6 seconds left in the third period to tie the score and Marc Staal scored on a power-play slap shot at 1:35 of the first overtime as the Rangers beat the Washington Capitals, 3-2, and took a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday night at the Garden.
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Regulation had ended just as dramatically as the Rangers rallied to tie the score at 2-2 on Richards' six-on-four power-play goal with goalie Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra skater. It was the latest the Rangers, who had 38 shots, had ever scored to tie a playoff game.
The Rangers moved within one victory of the Eastern Conference finals against either the Devils or Flyers, with Game 6 at Verizon Center Wednesday night.
With 21.3 seconds left in regulation and the Rangers trailing 2-1, Joel Ward received a double-minor for high-sticking Carl Hagelin, and with Lundqvist pulled, the Blueshirts had a two-man advantage. Ryan Callahan banged away in front and Holtby stopped the shots, but Richards slid the puck under him for his fifth goal of the postseason.
A power-play goal by John Carlson that went in off Lundqvist's glove at 4:20 of the third period had seemed to be the game-winner because the Rangers struggled to score on Holtby, much as they were stymied by Ottawa's Craig Anderson in the quarterfinals. They had no shots on three power plays.
The Capitals connected on their fourth power play after Mike Rupp hooked Ward at 2:39 of the third. The Rangers had killed the previous three but they couldn't this time. After Callahan's stick broke while he blocked a shot, defenseman Dennis Wideman moved the puck to Carlson, who carried toward center ice near the blue line and fired from 55 feet. The rising puck appeared to tip Dan Girardi's stick and go off Lundqvist's glove and in.
The Rangers had lost Game 5 of the first-round series with the Senators at the Garden before rallying to win Games 6 and 7.
Of the teams remaining in the playoffs, the Rangers have scored the fewest goals per game. They have scored 16 goals in the last eight games. The Rangers won four of those games because Lundqvist had allowed only 12 goals with a 1.53 goals-against-average and .939 save percentage.
The Rangers had managed only 20 shots on Holtby in Game 4, a 3-2 loss in Washington on Saturday. The issue hasn't been limited to one game, however. After scoring four goals in Game 1 against the Senators, the Rangers have scored two or fewer goals in eight of the other 11 games.
After Anton Stralman gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in a dominant first period in which the Blueshirts outshot Washington 17-4, the Caps tied the game on a broken play in the second. The puck deflected off Brian Boyle's stick into the slot to Laich, who snapped it past Lundqvist's left pad at 8:15. At that point, the last 12 goals of the series had alternated between the two teams.
The Rangers had no shots on either of their two power plays, at the 38-second mark, when Mike Green went off for a retaliatory slash on Girardi, and again at 12:35, when Carlson aired the puck over the glass.
At 4:14, the Rangers survived a second Capitals power play when Del Zotto was off for interfering with Ward along the right boards. Lundqvist made his best save of the game to that point, getting his left shoulder on Alexander Semin's shot. Boyle slid across the slot to block Green's shot and Lundqvist stopped Laich's slapper with 11 seconds to go shorthanded.