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Stepan's late goal leads Rangers past Capitals

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers rediscovered their offense Monday night and found their way back into the series.

Desperately needing a victory in Game 3, the Rangers got goals from Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Arron Asham and Derek Stepan to beat the Washington Capitals, 4-3, at Madison Square Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves and the Rangers pulled to within 2-1 of the Capitals in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Game 4 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).

"We're going to score some goals, but all we were focused on was doing whatever we could to try to win a game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We did that. Now we need to try to win one more game. We'll see what happens from there."

The Rangers scored one goal over 128 minutes in Games 1 and 2 at Verizon Center. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby entered the game with a shutout streak of 111:16 and New York's power play was 0-for-7 with 10 shots on goal.

But the Rangers beat Holtby four times, including twice in the third period, and cashed in on one of their six power plays to win Game 3. Lundqvist made it possible with several point-blank saves to keep the Rangers in the game despite the fact that they were getting outplayed during long swaths of 5-on-5 time, especially over the final 11-plus minutes of the second period.

The Rangers also had to kill off a late penalty on Brad Richards, who was called for slashing Alex Ovechkin at center ice with 1:54 to play. It turned into a 6-on-4 when Holtby left the net with roughly 90 seconds to play, but the Capitals never got a shot on goal as Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi closed off the lanes with blocked shots to preserve the potentially series-changing win with arguably their best penalty kill of the series.

"Was it a three-minute power play?" Stepan joked. "It was just desperation. You look at the job from Mac and Danny, it goes unnoticed, it really does. Those two guys played some big minutes and they got the job done."

The Capitals were lamenting the missed power-play opportunity following the game. Washington coach Adam Oates said he thought the Rangers did a good job of protecting Lundqvist, but felt his team could have done a better job of getting the puck to the net to try to score off a rebound.

"We were probably a little too cute with it," Oates said.

The Rangers scored all four of their goals by not being cute at all. They scored because they went to the net, something they talked about doing after getting shutout in Game 2 in large part because the Capitals kept them away from Holtby.

Stepan scored the winning goal from the slot with 6:25 left by redirecting Rick Nash's pass from below the right circle. The play started at the far point, where McDonagh was able to keep the puck alive and in the zone. He fed it down to Mats Zuccarello, who found Nash on the other side. Stepan went to the slot and Nash found his stick to give the Rangers the go-ahead goal.

Asham's goal, his first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2011, was also a result of a strong play at the left point by defenseman John Moore, who pinched to keep the puck in. Taylor Pyatt shoved it down the wall to Brassard, who from behind the goal line found Asham darting through the slot with a picture-perfect tape-to-tape pass. Asham didn't have to do much to get it past Holtby at the 2:53 mark of the third period.

"Those pinches, creating second opportunities by holding the wall, holding the blue line, that's a huge difference," McDonagh said. "You see them, their defensemen are involved in the offense and it's a reason why they're scoring goals, shots from the point. We can't always get shots through, but if we can create second opportunities with pinches, that's what we've got to do."

The Capitals tied the game less than five minutes after Asham scored because they used their defense to get a shot through.

Matt Hendricks beat Boyle on a faceoff to the left of Lundqvist. Joel Ward quickly came into the circle and was able to slide the puck back to Jack Hillen, whose shot hit off Jay Beagle in front and dipped past Lundqvist at the 7:19 mark.

Washington took a 1-0 lead on a deflection goal from Nicklas Backstrom early in the first period and tied the game at 2-2 late in the second when Mike Green blistered a wrist shot past Lundqvist from the left circle.

However, the Capitals went 0-for-3 on the power play and got a taste of their own forecheck medicine in the third period, when the Rangers activated their 'D'.

"We know they're going to put pressure on us," Ovechkin said. "They did a great job [Monday] on the forecheck. Made it a physical game."

Boyle and Brassard were two of the Rangers most important contributors Monday.

Not only did Boyle produce a goal 12:50 into the first period -- the Rangers first goal since Carl Hagelin scored with 3:16 left in the first period of Game 1 -- he also dished out an assist, gave the Rangers more than three minutes on the power play (as opposed to the 15 seconds he played on the power play in Game 2) and won 14 of 21 faceoffs (67 percent).

"He could have been one of our best players [Monday night]," Tortorella said of Boyle.

Brassard scored a power-play goal 1:23 into the second period and had the primary assists on the goals by Boyle and Asham. He also won five of nine faceoffs and was solid in the defensive zone.

"I know everybody likes to talk about adjustments and this, that and the other thing, I think we got some play out of some guys that we haven't gotten a lot of play out of consistently," Tortorella said. "Toward the end of the [regular season], we kind of relied on our top line. Some other guys stepped up tonight.

"We're going to need that if we're going to stay alive."


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