Displaying the resilience that has been one of their trademarks all season, the Rangers clawed back into the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Sunday. Their 3-2 Game 3 win at Madison Square Garden cut the Capitals' lead in this low-scoring best-of-seven to 2-1.
Brandon Dubinsky, who admitted his game was amiss in the first two losses, won a battle in the left corner and drove to the crease. His shot deflected off defenseman Karl Alzner over Michal Neuvirth for the winner with 1:39 left in regulation.
"The difference between winning and losing with this team is really small," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 23 saves to help avert going down 3-0. "One game, and a lot can change. We know it is a matter of getting that extra play or extra goal, and we got it today."
Goals by Erik Christensen, on a power play in the second period, and Vinny Prospal at 8:01 in the third provided one-goal leads for the Rangers, but the Capitals tied it on goals by Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble before Dubinsky's power move.
"I was trying to bring pucks to the net and bang something in there, especially with how much time was left in the game," Dubinsky said. "It was a fortunate bounce. They got one on their power-play goal in Game 2, so we're even, I guess."
Not exactly. The Capitals, who went back to Washington to practice, will return for Game 4 Wednesday at the Garden. They could take a 3-1 lead into Game 5 in Washington on Saturday -- or the Rangers could steal another home game and the series would turn into a best-of-three.
"My gut has had that feeling from the get-go early in the year. We've gone through a lot of injuries. No one was down. But we have to be better in Game 4 because Washington is going to be better."
After scoring only one goal in the first two games, the Rangers scored three times, and almost had a fourth. An apparent buzzer-beater in the second that would have given them an earlier 2-1 lead was disallowed after video review. Ruslan Fedotenko threw the puck from behind the net off John Erskine and it slid across to the post and in, but not before the official clock read 0.0.
It was the second disputed goal in the series. In Game 1, the Caps tied the score with 6:16 to play when Lundqvist initially had the puck under his right pad, no whistle blew, the puck trickled in and Ovechkin was credited with the goal. The Caps won, 2-1, in overtime.
To a man, the Rangers had vowed to put the two games aside and be more aggressive at home.
"I felt like we wanted to set the tone in the first period, and it paid off," Fedotenko said, noting the 21 hits and the Rangers' five blocked shots in the first 20 minutes.
Just 5:30 into the second, with the Rangers on their fourth power play, Christensen gave them a 1-0 lead when his shot from a sharp angle on the right side beat Neuvirth.
The goal, only the second for the Rangers in 163:54 of the series, came after a long delay when referee Chris Rooney suffered a broken left ankle and had to leave the game.
The Capitals tied it with 59.2 seconds left in the period. Ovechkin, who was taken down earlier in the sequence, got up, headed to the left post and managed to get his stick on Jason Arnott's pass from the right corner and tip it over Lundqvist. Then came the disallowed goal and the period ended 1-1.
At 8:01 of the third period, Prospal buried a rebound of Marc Staal's shot after some gritty play by Dubinsky, but it wasn't enough breathing room. They could breathe easier only after Dubinsky's goal.