The New York Rangers needed a spark trailing 1-0 in the second period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals.
They got one from rookie Kevin Hayes, whose power-play goal at 6:22 of the second period tied the game and ignited a nervous crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 22 | +/-: -3
After Capitals defenseman Mike Green
went off for cross checking, his second penalty in a span of 3:39, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh
kept in a clearing attempt and found forward J.T. Miller
at the top of the right circle. Miller poked a pass to an open Hayes, who beat goalie Braden Holtby
for his first goal since his game-winner in overtime of Game 4 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins
Hayes is the second rookie in Rangers history to score in Game 7 (Muzz Patrick, 1939 semifinals), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He had 17 goals and 45 points in 79 regular-season games, and led the Rangers with 29 points after the All-Star break.
"A goal's a goal. Luckily I just happened to score tonight," Hayes told the New York Daily News. "I didn't do too much work, all the praise goes to [Miller and McDonagh].
"These guys don't treat me like a rookie in this locker room and it allows me to play my game and be the best I can be out there. It just shows the character that McDonagh has. He makes it happen throughout the whole team. Yeah, it's my first year. I look at myself like a rookie, but I feel like these guys treat me differently. It's been great so far."
Derek Stepan's goal 11:24 into overtime completed the Rangers' comeback from down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series and put them into the Eastern Conference Final, where they will play the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 1 is Saturday in New York (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).