The New York Rangers are right back in this series with the Washington Capitals, as they took Game 3 by a score of 4-3, thanks to Derek Stepan's late game winning goal in the third period. The Rangers finally got their scoring touch back tonight as well, which played a huge part in the victory. Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding once again, and made key saves at key times. Marc Staal also returned to the lineup tonight for the first time since suffering a gruesome eye injury earlier in the season.
This game didn't start out nearly the way it should have, especially with an electric Madison Square Garden crowd amped up from the first puck drop. Just four minutes into the game, Nicklas Backstrom deflected home the games first goal, and gave the Capitals an early 1-0 lead. For a moment, it completely took the life out of the building. However, Brian Boyle finally gave the crowd something to cheer about just eight minutes later as he caught Braden Holtby cheating off of his post, and jammed it home for the tying goal.
There was a sudden sigh of relief from the crowd, as the Rangers only had just a single goal heading into this game. The Rangers would head into the second period tied at one, but that only last for a short time, until Derick Brassard gave the Blueshirts their first lead of the game. Mats Zuccarelo made a great play in the corner prior to the goal, and fed it directly over to Brassard who ripped it on net. The shot appears to be blocked as it fluttered on net, but Holtby whiffed on the blocker attempt, and just like that this game was in the Rangers favor.
Following that goal, the Rangers started to pick up their game, and were able to generate a few chances. But it wouldn't be playoff hockey without a major push back from the opposing team. In the final five minutes of the second period, the Capitals went on a complete surge in the Rangers zone. There was even a point where the Capitals made a full line change, while still maintaining themselves in the offensive zone. You could feel a goal coming, as the Rangers just weren't capable of clearing the zone.
Sure enough, Mike Green capitalize just minutes later as Mathieu Perreault found him cutting down the middle of the ice. Green gathered the puck, and fired the puck over the shoulder of Henrik Lundqvist, and we went back to a tie game knotted at 2-2. The Rangers were lucky to survive the second half of that second period, as Lundqvist had to bail them out a few times to keep this game tied.
Luckily for the Rangers, they were able to capitalize off yet another early opportunity in the third period, and were able to gain the 3-2 lead. Funny enough, the go-ahead goal came from an unlikely candidate, which was none other than Arron Asham himself. Derick Brassard sets up this goal with a hard forecheck in the corner where he able to gain possession of the puck. He tosses it straight out to the slot, and Asham comes in and taps home the loss puck. That's something the Rangers haven't been doing up until this point, which is getting the puck to the front of the net.
But again, this wouldn't be Rangers playoff hockey unless they made it hard on themselves. Five minutes later ,off of a faceoff in the offensive zone, Jay Beagle redirected the tying goal past Lundqvist. It was a weak shot that seemed to catch Lundqvist off guard, and it slipped right under his legs. It was a completely deflating goal for the Rangers, especially since it was a goal that Lundqvist normally doesn't give up.
But it didn't end there, Derek Stepan stepped up big time with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation, as he came away with the eventual game winning goal. This goal doesn't happened without the spectacular play that Ryan McDonagh makes at the blue line, before getting it down below to goal line to Mats Zuccarello. The puck eventually founds its way over to Rick Nash, who rifled a pass in front of the net, and Stepan deflected the puck over Holtby's pad, and into the net. At that point, it was utter mayhem as the crowd went wild with excitement, which was basically summed up by Stepan's celebration in the corner.
With just six minutes of clock to kill, the Rangers had this game in their pocket....or so they thought. With just under two minutes remaining in the game, Brad Richards took a swipe at Alex Ovechkin as he came through the middle of the ice with speed. The stick wound up catching Ovechkin right in the shoulder, but he threw his head back immediately and drew a high sticking penalty. While it may have actually been a penalty, the fact that he oversold that call should have earned him two minutes for diving.
Either way, the Rangers were faced with the difficult task of shutting down the league's hottest power play with just about 1:30 left in the game. With the goalie pulled, the Rangers held down the fort while being down two men. After a few flurries in front of Lundqvist's crease, the Rangers were able to hold onto the lead, and come away with the much needed victory.
With the win, the Rangers are only down 2-1, with a chance to knot up this series on Wednesday night with another home game. This series isn't close to being over.