WASHINGTON - The Rangers forced a Game 7, but by the thinnest of threads.
In the wildest game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Capitals, the Rangers survived a furious rally after building a three-goal lead -- the largest of the series by either team -- before the five-minute mark of the third, and led by Henrik Lundqvist's 42 saves, beat the Capitals, 4-3, in Game 6 on Sunday night.
Game 7 is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Garden.
After defenseman Dan Boyle scored on a one-timer at 4:24 of the third to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead, the Capitals attacked with desperation to try to avoid the Blueshirts from tying the best-of-seven series after Washington had forged a 3-1 lead.
The Rangers did not have a shot on goal in the last 15:36.
"After we made it 4-1, they had one of the strongest pushes I've seen a team have," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think we learned a lesson; you can't take your foot off the pedal."
All 11 of the Rangers' games this postseason have been decided by one goal, and they now have played 13 straight one-goal playoff games, an NHL record, dating to last year's Cup Final.
So the Rangers and Capitals will play their fourth Game 7 in their last five series, but the Rangers were not pleased with their performance after the first period, when they led 2-0 on goals by Chris Krieder at the 48-second mark and with 0.3 seconds left in the period.
"I don't think anyone in here is comfortable," Derek Stepan said. "We've done a lot of hard work, but tonight was probably our worst game of the series and we find a way to win. We gave ourselves a chance going back for Game 7. We've got to make sure we're ready for 60 minutes of hard-nosed hockey."
Washington attempted 96 shots -- 45 were on goal, 34 were blocked, and 17 missed the net. The 45 shots are the most allowed in a game by the Rangers this season.
"Obviously, Henrik was our best player tonight," Stepan said. "We were back on our heels a little bit and they just kept pushing. Lucky we had four [goals], we needed them all."
The Blueshirts, who had scored only one goal in two previous games in Washington, had a quick start. Kreider scored his first goal on a remarkable individual effort, fending off Matt Niskanen on a rush before backhanding the puck past Braden Holtby and closed the period with a shot from the doorstep with 0.3 seconds left. "When he plays like that, he's tough to handle for anybody," Vigneault said.
Leading 2-1 after Jason Chimera's goal going into the third, the Blueshirts, outshot 18-4 in the second period, looked as if they had put Game 6 away in the first 4:24. Martin St. Louis found Rick Nash for his second goal of the playoffs at 54 seconds and James Sheppard backhanded a pass from behind the net for Boyle, cruising into the right circle, and his goal made it 4-1.
But Evgeny Kuznetsov's unassisted goal at 7:40 cut it to 4-2 and at 10:33, Joel Ward jammed in a loose puck in the crease to get the Capitals with a goal.
"We're happy we battled back in the series, but there's a lot of things we need to clean up defensively," said Girardi, who led all skaters with eight blocks. "I don't think we let up, we just couldn't find a way to get the puck out of the zone."
Part of that problem was because the Rangers were missing Ryan McDonagh for about eight minutes of the third period after Alex Ovechkin crushed him into the end boards. McDonagh returned briefly, but was not available for interviews postgame.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz was disappointed: "We would like to have a redo of the first period. Now the pressure is on both teams. It's one game. Loser goes home. No matter what, someone is going home."