A goal call on the ice was reversed by the situation room in Toronto that would've given the Rangers a one-goal lead after two periods. Later, after the Rangers took the lead midway through the third period, the Capitals tied it with 5:12 remaining in regulation.
Instead of crumbling with a 3-0 series hole staring them in the face, the Rangers rose to the occasion.
Brandon Dubinsky scored with 1:39 remaining in the third period, giving the Rangers a 3-2 victory that cut the Caps' lead in the best-of-7 series to 2-1 with Game 4 set for Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
"Things went against us," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves. "Mentally, it was a good test for us. We passed. We did a good job of staying focused and in control and kept fighting. That's so important in this game."
Dubinsky's winner was a result of hard work below the goal line, something the Rangers have mastered this season. He carried the puck toward the net, cut to the crease, and had his shot pinball off the shoulder of Caps defenseman Karl Alzner and accidentally deflected into the net behind goaltender Michal Neuvirth off the stick of Alex Ovechkin.
It certainly wasn't the prettiest goal of the season, but it was the biggest of the playoffs for the Rangers.
"I just tried to take the puck hard to the net," said Dubinsky, who trimmed down his playoff beard into a playoff mustache before the game. "We had a battle in the corner and there wasn't much time there. We got a great bounce and it goes in.
"You try to make a conscious effort to shoot, jam the net and make it tougher on Neuvirth and we did that."
The goal came 3:33 after the Caps' Mike Knuble tied it with a power-play goal. He jammed home a rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom shot to silence the crowd after Marian Gaborik took a cross-checking penalty to set up the power play.
The Rangers had taken a 2-1 lead at 8:01 of the third period when Vinny Prospal got to a loose puck in front of Neuvirth and swept it home. It gave the Rangers their second 2-1 lead of the game, only this one was going to stand.
With time winding down in the second period, the Rangers were applying pressure. A pass from behind the net ricocheted off skates in the crease and slithered across the goal line as time expired. It was ruled a goal on the ice, but the situation room in Toronto took a closer look.
While the game clock on NBC showed 0.1 seconds remaining, the official game clock that is burned into overhead replays in Toronto showed time had expired, and the goal call on the ice was overturned.
It had all the potential in the world to be a momentum-changing situation, but the Rangers maintained the even keel that has served them so well all season.
"That's been our identity all year," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "When we find some adversity and we stick with the game plan, we seem to win games. When we don't and deviate from the game plan, I think that's when we lose games. We stuck with it today, didn't deviate from anything and got the job done."
"I think the key, especially in the playoffs, is not to get too high or too low," Lundqvist said. "You have to stay focused. We stayed focused."
Adversity found the Rangers during a scoreless first period, too. They had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:25 when Knuble cleared the puck over the glass 35 seconds after Matt Hendricks took an interference penalty. The Rangers moved the puck around in the Caps zone very well, but failed to generate a meaningful scoring chance.
That left the Rangers 1-for-33 on the power play in their last 12 games.
"The mood changes and momentum swings were pretty crazy," defenseman Marc Staal said. "That power play was a tough one to swallow there."
They fell to 1-for-34 after failing to score on a power-play chance early in the second period, but Erik Christensen broke the slump with a beauty of a goal few players have the ability to pull off.
Christensen held the puck on the right wing near the goal line and didn't receive any pressure from the Caps' defenders. He appeared to catch Neuvirth guessing pass and fired a wrist shot into what was basically a puck-sized opening over the goaltender's shoulder to put the Rangers ahead 1-0 at 5:30 of the second period.
It was a skillful goal -- the first of Christensen's career in the playoffs -- from a team that rarely scores those type of goals.
"I haven't seen it on tape yet, but I think he shot it down by the goal line," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Again, shots to the net, they didn't block it, and we score a pretty big goal there."
The Rangers appeared poised to head to the second intermission up 1-0 on the strength of Christensen's goal, but Ovechkin tied the score by redirecting a perfect pass from Jason Arnott with 59.2 seconds remaining in the period.
Couple that with the go-ahead goal that was overturned, and it was a situation that gave the Rangers every chance to sag and feel sorry for themselves entering the third period.
Instead, it was just another game where the Rangers refused to give up, and now they find themselves right back in a series that was a bounce away from being virtually over.
"It's a gutsy group of guys," captain Chris Drury said. "Another example of not giving in. Being down 2-1 is a lot better than being down 3-0. We now need to get ready for Game 4."