Rangers break through vs. Capitals
Derek Stepan and Arron Asham both scored tiebreaking goals in the third period for the New York Rangers in a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 3 on Monday night.
The Rangers finally found their offense and got back into their first-round playoff series. New York still trails 2-1 in the Eastern Conference series, with Game 4 here Wednesday night.
Stepan gave the Rangers the lead for good with 6:25 remaining when he deftly tipped in a pass in front from Rick Nash. Asham had put New York in front 3-2 at 2:53, but Jay Beagle got the Capitals even again 4:26 later.
”It was an interesting game,” Stepan said. ”The flows of it were up and down. Early lead, they tie it. We get another one, they tie it.
”As a team we just stuck together. On the bench everyone had a good feeling.”
Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists for the Rangers, who managed only one goal in the first two losses in Washington and hadn’t scored since the first period of Game 1 – a scoreless stretch of 124 minutes, 6 seconds. That streak was broken by Brian Boyle’s first-period goal that made it 1-1.
Until then, New York had been stymied by the Capitals and goalie Braden Holtby, who had yielded just one goal in two games. Holtby, who suggested he wasn’t tested much in Washington’s 1-0 overtime victory on Saturday, had plenty to deal with when the series shifted to Madison Square Garden.
”It’s great, we put a few behind him,” Boyle said. ”We have to keep that same mentality. We have to keep shooting pucks.”
After Nicklas Backstrom gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 4:06 in, Boyle tied it. Brassard put the Rangers in front in the second period with the team’s first power-play goal in the series, and Asham gave New York its 3-2 lead.
Mike Green, who netted the overtime winner in Game 2, had tied it for the Capitals in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist was sharp in making 28 saves. Holtby countered with a 26-save effort.
”We wanted to be up three, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, and we know that,” Green said. ”We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Lundqvist had to hold off the surging Capitals in the closing minutes after Brad Richards was whistled for high-sticking Alex Ovechkin. Washington couldn’t tie it again, even after pulling Holtby for an extra skater.
”You don’t have a lot of chances to play 6-on-4,” Ovechkin said. ”It’s a totally different picture out there. It’s a situation where you have to find the shooting lane and shoot it.”
The Rangers had their first multi-goal game of the series, and they did it with their struggling power play that had failed to score on its seven chances in Washington.
New York used every bit of its second advantage of the first period when Boyle scored exactly two minutes after Joel Ward was sent off for high-sticking Brassard. Boyle, who returned to the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday following a knee injury, carried the puck from the right-wing wall, cut into the circle, shifted the puck to both sides of his stick, and flipped a shot over a crouched Green and past Holtby at 12:50 for what was technically an even-strength goal.
That got the Rangers even and took some of the nervous tension out of the crowd that had already let out loud groans when Backstrom gave the Capitals the 1-0 lead when he deflected in John Carlson’s shot in the slot.
The Rangers grabbed the lead back with Brassard’s power-play goal 1:23 into the second. What made this one even more unique was the fact New York got the advantage when Holtby tripped Nash as he skated out from behind the net.
It took only eight seconds of power-play time for the Rangers to cash in. Mats Zuccarello sent a pass from near the right point into the slot to Brassard, who beat Holtby with a quick drive and then flashed an emphatic fist pump to celebrate his first NHL playoff goal.
Lundqvist was strong throughout the second period and did his part to keep the Rangers in front.
After heavy pressure by the Capitals in the New York end, Lundqvist made a pad save on a point-blank drive from the slot. That didn’t end the Washington attack, as Green let go a shot that Lundqvist snared with his glove to get a stoppage of play.
It also elicited a healthy chant of ”Hen-rik, Hen-rik” from the crowd that sensed every save was crucial because of the Rangers’ slumping offense.
NOTES: The Capitals killed the Rangers’ first 10 power plays in the series before Brassard’s goal. … Boyle and Asham each scored only two goals in the regular season. … New York D Marc Staal returned after being sidelined since early March when he was struck near the right eye by a puck.