From his lonely seat in the penalty box, Derick Brassard was worried. Early in the third period Saturday, he was banished for tying up superstar Alex Ovechkin, and with the Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead, Brassard was worried that the potent Capitals power play would tie the score.
"I was really nervous," Brassard said. "I was just trying to slow him down and got caught. I wasn't feeling very good in there."
But the Rangers killed the penalty and Brassard "had some energy." He left the box and skated toward goalie Braden Holtby as Rick Nash stole the puck at mid-ice. He moved it to Marty St. Louis, who crossed the blue line and slid a pass through two outstretched Capitals sticks to Brassard alone in front of the crease -- and Brassard finished it.
It was the third goal of the afternoon for the Rangers -- who had scored only three times in regulation in the previous three games -- and even after Ovechkin scored on a remarkable individual effort later in the period, they held on for a much-needed 3-2 win.
In the Rangers' 2-1 loss in Game 1 Thursday night, Holtby stopped a shot by Brassard on the doorstep, and he again denied him earlier Saturday.
"The first two I was in tight, didn't have a chance to do anything. This one I had a little more space," Brassard said. "I took a quick shot five-hole, tried to surprise him."
Holtby was ready. "I was trying to be patient and he just changed his angle a little bit," he said. "I had to move and opened up in the pads area and [the puck] hit both my thighs. Just a tiny split-second too late."
"For two seconds, I didn't know I scored," said Brassard, who then let out a roar, echoed by the sellout crowd, and skated with arms raised to the boards. "A good bounce for me."
The Rangers tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1 with what was only their second win in a Game 2 at home since 1994 of the Stanley Cup Final against Vancouver.
Games 3 and 4 are in Washington on Monday night and Wednesday night. Game 5 is back in New York on Friday night.
"We didn't want to go back to Washington 0-and-2," said Brassard, whose goal was his fourth of the playoffs. "When our backs are against the wall, we always answer."
The response from the desperate Rangers, who had lost Game 1 on Joel Ward's goal with 1.3 seconds left, began 38 seconds into the matinee. Chris Kreider, who had a monster game with four hits and two misses on break-ins, fired in a rebound of Jesper Fast's deflection of Derek Stepan's pass.
"We weren't happy with the way it ended last game," Marc Staal said. "On the first shift, it was a big goal for us. Big response for us."
The Rangers went on to dominate the first period, with Dan Boyle making it 2-0 at 15:40 during a power play on a shot past Holtby, who was screened by Rick Nash. The Rangers finished the period with 28 shot attempts to the Capitals' six.
But the Capitals found their legs, and when the Rangers couldn't extend the lead in the second, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a rebound at 13:59 to make it 2-1.
Earlier, Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 30 saves, had stoned Kuznetsov with a spinning, sprawling blocker save at the left post.
"He was pretty [annoyed] after Game 1," Brassard said. "I thought he played like he was."
Lundqvist couldn't totally stop Ovechkin, though, and neither could Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, whom he burst through for a shot -- from his knees -- that hit the upper corner at 10:29.
"He's leaving an impression on them physically and with his skill level," coach Barry Trotz said. "He's a force."
But the Rangers had just enough desperation -- plus scoring and goaltending -- to counter it.