With less than a minute left in regulation and leading the New York Rangers by one goal, the Washington Capitals looked as if they would edge out the Blueshirts and grab a 3-2 series lead last night at Madison Square Garden. But with 21.3 seconds left, Capitals’ forward Joel Ward received a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Carl Hagelin. And while the Rangers were already 0-for-3 on the man-advantage earlier in the game, they weren’t going to let this opportunity slip through their fingers.
Desperate to find a way past Caps’ goaltender Braden Holtby, the Rangers commenced a full on assault in the offensive zone and left goaltender Henrik Lundqvist watching from the bench to create a 6-on-4 situation. As time continued to rapidly dwindle, the crowd cheered louder, hoping its energy would help the Rangers put the puck in the net.
“It’s awesome,” Ryan Callahan said of the fans. “They supported us all night. Twenty seconds left, they’re standing up chanting ‘Let’s go Rangers.’ That fuels you.”
Fuel them it did. Michael Del Zotto took a shot from atop the blue line, and Callahan whacked at the rebound a few times before Brad Richards was able to poke the puck past Holtby and a kneeling John Carlson into the far corner of the net to tie the game with 6.6 seconds left. With the goal, the game was headed into overtime.
“It was a great feeling to tie it, then come in here and regroup and know we have a fresh sheet of ice and a power play, and a chance,” said Richards. “We had a lot of energy and the crowd was in it again.”
Still on the power play in the beginning of the overtime period, the Rangers’ controlled the puck in Washington’s zone. After John Mitchell won an offensive zone faceoff back to Marc Staal, Staal maneuvered his way into shooting position and ripped a shot from near the blue line that was redirected by Brooks Laich and Matt Hendricks before it found its way into the back of the net.
“We just kept trying to come at them,” said Staal after the game. “It wasn’t a set play or anything off the draw, just a good clean draw and guys went to the net and [Holtby] couldn’t see.”
Once again, with the win, the Rangers proved their ability to bounce back after a devastating loss. Overly critical of their start to Game 4, the Rangers returned to their hard-nosed, gritty style of hockey from the moment the puck dropped. With a strong forecheck, the Rangers outshot the Capitals 17-4 in the first period, which is a franchise record for most shots on goal in a single period during a playoff game.
Midway through the opening period, the Blueshirts got on the board first when Anton Stralman tallied his third goal of the playoffs. The Rangers would go into the second with the lead, but Washington tied the game at a goal apiece when Laich made a heads up play on a misdirected puck by Brian Boyle. Boyle was defending in front on the net when he tried to flick the puck toward the neutral zone, it careened off his stick and bounced into open ice where Laich was headed for the net and snapped a shot that beat Lundqvist.
Less than three minutes in the third period, the Caps were awarded their third power play of the game when Mike Rupp was called for hooking. Unsuccessful in the first two man-advantage opportunities, the Capitals were able to convert and take a 2-1 lead. Dennis Wideman fed a pass to Carlson who fired a shot from the top of the offensive zone and went into the net off of Lundqvist’s glove. From that moment on, the third period momentum shifted in the Capitals favor. The team received another power play opportunity, but couldn’t capitalize. They went 1-4 on the night.
But the Rangers’ resilience would prevail in the end as the Capitals shuffled off the ice stunned at the turn of events.
“What can you say about these guys?” said Lundqvist after the game. “They never give up. It’s just great to be rewarded.”
The Rangers hope to close out the series, while the Capitals will try and force Game 7 Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.