Henrik Lundqvist had just spent the better part of 4 1/2 hours repelling pucks and shooing skaters from the crease in the pressure-packed situation known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.
When it was all over, after the calendar moved from Wednesday to Thursday and the New York Rangers had defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 in three overtimes, Lundqvist was absolutely drained.
"I think my entire body is just tired right now," said Lundqvist, who stopped 45 shots to help New York take a 2-1 lead in the series. "I just want to lay down and relax and get a message. My neck is hurting."
Marian Gaborik scored at 14:41 of the third overtime to help the Eastern Conference’s regular season champs grab back home-ice advantage from the seventh-seeded Capitals.
Brad Richards sent a pass from the backboards toward Gaborik, who ended the marathon by sliding the puck between the pads of rookie goaltender Braden Holtby.
"When you get into that many hours of playing, it becomes a mental game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I felt if the game got longer and longer, our team was at an advantage. We have a mentally tough group. Just not giving in — that’s the key."
It was Gaborik’s first goal since New York’s first playoff game against Ottawa, snapping an eight-game drought.
"I hope it gets Gabby going," Tortorella said. "He’s a guy we need as we continue."
Holtby stopped 47 shots for the Capitals, but the last one got away.
"You just try to play every period the same," he said. "Once you start putting more pressure on yourself because it’s overtime, that’s when bad things start to happen. The game started to open up in the third overtime, but it happens."
Early in the third overtime, Washington killed a New York power play to keep the suspense going.
The game started at 7:40 p.m. and stretched into the next day, ending at 12:14 a.m. Thursday. There will be a two-day break before the teams meet for Game 4 on Saturday in Washington.
Asked if this game was a series turner, Tortorella said, "The impact is we’re up a game. They have to win three, we have to win two. The guys should feel good about themselves as far as what they went through. They didn’t give in and found a way. Now we go about our business."
It was yet another low scoring, extremely tight game for the Capitals. Nine of Washington’s 10 playoff games have been decided by one goal; the exception was New York’s 3-1 win in the series opener.
John Carlson got a second-period goal for the Capitals, 2-3 in overtime this postseason. Ryan Callahan scored in the second period to make it 1-0 for New York, which improved to 1-2 in overtime during these playoffs.
Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who logged only 13 1/2 minutes of ice time in the Capitals’ 3-2 victory Monday in Game 2 in New York, finished with 20 1/2 minutes in regulation. He had 6 1/2 minutes in the first period, compared to 3 1/2 in Game 2. After two periods, his 14:49 of ice time was the most on the team.
The difference was that in the previous game, Washington bolted to a 2-0 lead and didn’t need the offense that Ovechkin is capable of providing. Despite his extended play in regulation, he was used very sparingly during overtime.
Tortorella, in contrast, milked more than 40 minutes apiece out of defensemen Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh before the game entered the third overtime.
Early in the first extra period, Washington’s Troy Brouwer got a pass in front of the net and inexplicably shot the puck wide. At the 15-minute mark, Ovechkin gathered in a turnover by Anton Stralman, moved in with a bouncing puck and drilled a shot off the right post.
The goal horn sounded, and many in the sellout crowd stood and cheered. But a replay showed the puck never entered the net.
Washington successfully killed a New York power play in the final minutes of the first extra session.
Fatigue became a factor in the second overtime, as the teams combined for 13 shots.
The Rangers had a chance to take the lead late in regulation when Mike Knuble was called for goaltender interference at 14:25 of the third period, even though he received a nudge from both Brian Boyle and McDonagh as he crashed into Lundqvist. New York failed to get off a shot, and with 13 seconds left on the man advantage, Richards was called for tripping.
Washington didn’t get off a shot on its power play, either.
The Capitals outshot New York 13-10 during a scoreless first period in which Washington had the lone power play. Lundqvist denied Marcus Johansson on a shot from the low end of the right circle with just over 13 minutes elapsed, and seconds later Ovechkin was leveled by Staal after unleashing a wrist shot from the left circle.
New York’s first power play provided the game’s initial goal. With Brooks Laich off for hooking, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto took a shot from the left circle that hit Carlson and Washington’s Matt Hendricks. Callahan was in position to sweep the bouncing puck into the right side of the net.
Washington killed 27 of 30 penalties in the postseason before Callahan’s goal. It was bad omen for the Capitals, who were 5-1 in the playoffs when scoring first and 0-3 when falling behind 1-0.
Carlson tied it at 11:10, deftly skating from left to right around three Rangers in the New York zone before launching a wrist shot that whizzed past Lundqvist’s right shoulder into the top of the net. Stralman got caught up ice, and Carlson skated around Gaborik to get free.
NOTES: Visiting teams are 13-6 in overtime this postseason. … Rangers C Brandon Dubinsky was scratched for a third straight game with an unspecified injury. … Washington had won five straight home playoff games against the Rangers, dating to 2009 and including last season. … It was the third-longest game in Capitals history and the fifth-longest for the Rangers.