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Rangers' power play finally comes up big

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The Rangers still believed in their power play, when they had no reason to at all.

Somehow, it won a game for them. Somehow, they're one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997.

"We just wanted another chance," Brad Richards said after New York won Game 5 against Washington 3-2 on two power play goals scored within a span of 101.6 seconds bridging the end of regulation and overtime. "We didn't know if we'd get a power play, but you never doubt it. You always think you have a chance on a power play.

The Rangers' power play was 0-for-3 without a shot on goal in Game 5 before Joel Ward took a double-minor for slashing Carl Hagelin with 21.3 seconds left in regulation.


Rangers rally for OT win, 3-2 series lead

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer
The Rangers were 6.6 seconds from being pushed to the brink until Brad Richards scored to send the game to overtime, then Marc Staal won it 1:35 into the extra period to give the Rangers a come-from-behind 3-2 victory against the Capitals in Game 5. READ MORE ›

Henrik Lundqvist was sitting on the bench, giving the Rangers a 6-on-4 and still there was no reason for optimism, no reason to believe they could get it done with even with a two-man advantage.

The Rangers were winning draws (2-of-3) and getting the puck in the zone cleanly on the power play, but struggling to settle it down and move it anywhere with enough speed to stop the Capitals from pressuring them. When they did get shots off, the Capitals were in the lanes; they blocked six shots over the Rangers' first three power plays.

So, no, there was no evidence that this power play, just 2-for-16 in the series before Ward's penalty, could click in time to force overtime, when they would still have a power play and a fresh sheet of ice to work with.

And yet it did. Twice.

How? Why?

Faceoffs, a healthy dose of well-timed luck, and, if you believe Washington defenseman Karl Alzner, a bit of a media curse to boot.

"We had a couple of people before the game at the pregame skate asking us why our penalty kill has been so good, and in my opinion they jinxed it," Alzner said. "I say it all the time, I don't want to be asked about penalty kill questions. I kind of had a weird feeling about it, and sure enough it happened."

In reality, the Rangers scored because they started with the puck.

Richards beat Jay Beagle cleanly on an offensive zone, left-circle faceoff with 21.3 seconds left, giving the Rangers possession and a chance. Ryan Callahan had two whacks that hit off Braden Holtby's pad -- the first two shots the Rangers had on the power play Monday -- but as the Capitals' rookie goalie was going to cover the puck, Richards got to it first, found a hole just inside the left post and put it through with 6.6 seconds left in regulation.

Richards' shot even had to clear John Carlson, who was stationed in front as a backup to Holtby.

It did.

"It's a collective effort and guys are battling, getting it back there and that gave us control," Richards said.

Ninety seconds into overtime, John Mitchell battled to win an offensive zone faceoff from Matt Hendricks in the right circle. He moved the puck back to Marc Staal at the right point.

"Just winning the draws, that's massive for any power play," Staal said.

As they are coached to do, both Brooks Laich and Hendricks got into Staal's shooting lane, only this time the puck deflected off of both of them and sailed past Holtby, who said he never saw it with all the bodies in front of him.

"I pride myself on taking faceoffs, digging in and trying to win those ones," Mitchell said. "Especially when we're on the power play, you lose that one clean, they put it down the ice and before you know it that's 20 seconds killed off on your power play. If you can own the puck right off the faceoff, that's huge. It was great that Staalsie was able to just get it and pound it on the net."

The Rangers couldn't get anything on net in their first six minutes of power play time Monday. When it didn't seem at all likely, at all believable that it would happen when they were afford yet another chance, they needed all of 101.6 seconds to get four shots and two goals to win the game.

"The guys that were on the ice at the end believed in it," Staal said.

No one is quite sure why, but that doesn't matter now.

"We end up 2-for-5 (on the power play), and that's a pretty good game," Richards said. "The timing of it was great. That's why you keep battling."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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