WASHINGTON -- For the second straight year, the New Rangers have rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Eastern Conference Second Round to force a Game 7, this time defeating the Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 6 at Verizon Center on Sunday to even the best-of-7 series at 3-3.
The Rangers will host Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist finished with 42 saves and Chris Kreider scored two goals in the first period, including a power-play goal with 0.3 seconds remaining, to give New York a 2-0 lead. Rick Nash and Dan Boyle scored early in the third period to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead that they needed because of Washington's late push.
The Capitals outshot the Rangers 45-28, including 28-8 in the final two periods, and cut the deficit to 4-3 with 9:27 remaining.
"I think tonight was probably our worst game in the series and we find a way to win, and we give ourselves a chance going back to Game 7," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "You know [the Capitals are] going to come and we've got to make sure that we're ready for 60 minutes of hard- nose hockey."
New York will host Game 7 on May 13. The Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit in the second round last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins before winning Game 7 at Consol Energy Center on May 13. New York also defeated Washington 5-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on May 13, 2013.
The Rangers have won five consecutive Game 7s since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators. They are 13-3 in their last 16 games when facing elimination, including 7-1 under coach Alain Vigneault.
"I wouldn't say there is comfort," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "You can't be comfortable and just go out there and hope you win. We've had good success, but we have to bottle that, whatever we did right, and play that much better. They're going to come with everything they have and same with us. It's going to be a battle Wednesday night."
The Capitals like their chances if they play the way they played in the final 40 minutes on Sunday.
Washington dominated the second period, outshooting New York 18-4, but only had Jason Chimera's goal at 28 seconds to show for it. The Rangers came out strong in the third and got a goal from Nash 54 seconds into the period and from Boyle at 4:24, but Washington rallied again, scoring twice to cut the deficit to 4-3 with 9:27 left.
Lundqvist saved the final four shots he faced and the Rangers killed off a power play that started at 17:16.
"I saw how we could control the play in the offensive zone with our wall play, our strength, our size," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. "A 60-minute effort, if we do that, percentages are in our favor for a win [in Game 7]."
The Capitals offense came from a revamped second line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Joel Ward and Chimera. Washington coach Barry Trotz put them together at the start of the second period and they accounted for three goals on 15 shots.
Kuznetsov cut the Rangers lead to 4-2 at 7:40 of the third period and Ward made it 4-3 at 10:33.
Ward had one of the assists on Kuznetsov's goals. Chimera had one of the assists on Ward's goal. Kuznetsov and Ward had the assist on Chimera's goal in the second period.
"We made the line changes and we started playing," Trotz said. "We dug ourselves a hole, we've done that a few times, and we tried to dig ourselves out. We said, 'Let's have a push.'"
The Capitals had a power play with 2:44 remaining in the third period after Rangers forward James Sheppard shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game. Washington made it a 6-on-4 advantage by pulling Holtby (24 saves) for an extra skater with 1:40 remaining.
Trotz used his timeout with 1:17 remaining and 33 seconds left on the power play. Washington had one shot on goal during the power play and didn't get another in the rest of the game.
Washington was 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 6 and is 0-for-10 in the past five games.
"It's unfortunate for us because 4-1 is a pretty big hole, but there is great belief on our bench," Trotz said. "They're probably disappointed that we didn't get it today in front of our fans, but the pressure is the same on both teams [in Game 7]. It's one game, loser goes home.
I don't think you can say there is more pressure on us than them. No matter what, someone is going home."
The Rangers haven't lost a Game 7 since Washington defeated them at Verizon Center in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, going 5-0 since then. The Capitals won Game 7 against the New York Islanders in the first round.
"We wanted a chance," Vigneault said. "And we gave ourselves a chance."