A word has dominated the Rangers’ lexicon for the past 14 days: Luck.
The Rangers had not experienced much good luck in the first 186:44 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against top-seeded Washington.
But that may have changed with one deflection yesterday afternoon.
Brandon Dubinsky’s pop-up goal was the game-winner in the Rangers’ 3-2 gut check over the Capitals at the Garden. The Rangers trail two games to one in the series. Game 4 is Wednesday night at MSG.
With each team down a man due to roughing minors on Brian Boyle and John Carlson, Dubinsky took the puck off the boards and walked the goal line as Capitals Scott Hannan, Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin collapsed towards Michal Neuvirth. The Rangers’ left wing flicked the puck over the Washington netminder and it bounced into the cage.
“I saw Danny (Girardi) rushing down the slot so I just tried to bring the puck to the net. We got a great bounce and that was it,” Dubinsky said of his game-winning, unassisted goal at 18:21 of the third period.
Added John Tortorella, “I didn’t see it live. I saw it after the game. I think it even hit Ovechkin’s stick.”
The win typified the 2010-11 Rangers season: It was workmanlike rather than masterful. Neuvirth was peppered with 35 shots while Henrik Lundqvist, who kept the Rangers in the first two games, only saw 25.
“We scored some goals. I don’t think we did much different (than the first two games in Washington). I thought we got to the blue much better today. Again, it was a tight checking game. The chances were hard to come by for both team. We found a way to score a couple goals. There is no magic potion. We found a way to score three goals and they scored two,” Tortorella said. “I thought we were really aggressive in Washington. We are not far off. Now it is 2-1, but it could be (reversed). It could be us 2-1. We are not going about our business any different. We are just going about our game.”
The Rangers’ physical game seemed to irritate Washington, which committed seven penalties in the matinee. Erik Christensen’s laser 5:30 into the second period opened the scoring. It was the Rangers’ lone power play goal, but their first of the series.
“It’s a hard game,” Alex Ovechkin said. Ovechkin tied the game at 1-1 with a goal in the final minute of the second period. He finished with two points in 19:32. “Guys don’t get their minutes.”
The Rangers’ hard luck reared its head at the end of the second period. Ruslan Fedotenko appeared to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead with a tenth of a second left on the clock, but the Toronto war room ruled that the puck crossed the line after time had expired
“Things like that happen,” philosophized Brian Boyle. “We’re a pretty resilient group. We settled down and ramped up for the (third) period.
Washington came out flying to start the third but Vinny Prospal’s rebound of a Marc Staal shot into a half-empty net at 8:01 gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
The advantage lasted for 6:47. With Marian Gaborik in the box for cross checking, Mike Knuble slammed his first of the playoffs past Lundqvist.
“We were frustrated but we recovered quickly,” Chris Drury said. “We were able to get a big one there, four-on-four.”
As a result, the Rangers have life. If not luck.