Rangers battle for critical Game 3 win over Capitals

 

The season has not been salvaged, but it has been extended.

The Rangers battled their way to a 4-3 win over the Capitals last night at the Garden. Washington leads 2-1 in the series.

“It’s huge. We definitely knew it was a big game,” Derek Stepan said. Stepan’s goal at 613:35 of the third was the game-winner. It was his first goal of the playoffs. “We didn’t want to go down three-zip. [Game 3] changed the series quite a bit.”

“Be a little tenacious,” Brian Boyle said. “Don’t be satisfied with one win and four goals. You have to keep going.”

Boyle skated 20:42 spanning 29 shifts last night. He finished with two points (a goal and an assist), attempted six shots, blocked two shots threw a hit and won 14 of 21 faceoffs.

In a game in which scrums seemingly ensued after every whistle, the Rangers outhit Washington, 33-22, and had a 19-14 advantage in blocked shots.

“I think our style is of a grind-it-out style,” Stepan said. “We know their top line has a lot of skill and their power play has a lot of skill. We have to continue to work on our game, getting our game to our pace.”

The Rangers also benefited from secondary scoring. Arron Asham and Derick Brassard added goals. Brassard’s goal came on the power play, which has long been a detriment for the team. The Rangers finished 1-for-6 on the power play and killed off all three of Washington’s opportunities with the man advantage.

“They did a really good job of protecting [Henrik Lundqvist],” Capitals coach Adam Oates said of the Rangers’ final penalty kill, a 4-on-6 over the last 114 seconds. “We probably could have tried a better way to get to the net to start the process of [Lundqvist] not being able to cover his rebounds — get to the second waves. We were probably a little too cute with it.”

Lundqvist was a virtuoso in stopping 28-of-31 shots, including all 11 off the stick of Alex Ovechkin. He yielded just Nicklas Backstrom’s game-opening goal 4:06 into the match, Mike Green’s marker at 17:19 of the second, which tied the game 2-2, and Jay Beagle’s goal 7:19 into the third.

“There was a lot of determination going into this game,” Lundqvist said. “We knew we had to win this one. It was a must win.”

The Rangers also got a boost from the return of Marc Staal to the lineup after missing 29 games due to an eye injury. Staal skated 17:17 as part of a second defense pair with Anton Stralman.

“He’s so well-respected in the room and this is two major injuries that he has come back from,” head coach John Tortorella said, referring to the concussion that limited Staal to 46 games in 2011-12. “It really helps the room. He’s so well-liked and there are times when you can tell it’s going to take a little bit to totally get back but he made some really big plays at key times too.”

Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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