The New York Rangers will try to take a commanding lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, as the top-seeded club visits the Washington Capitals for today's Game 4 battle at Verizon Center.
The seventh-seeded Capitals earned a split of the first two games in New York, but the Rangers would gain the advantage with a victory in Wednesday's memorable Game 3. New York ultimately recorded a 2-1 victory in triple- overtime, giving the Atlantic Division champions a 2-1 edge in this series.
New York would like to extend their lead to 3-1 with a win this afternoon in D.C. A victory today by the Blueshirts would set up an elimination game for the club when it hosts the Capitals in Game 5 on Monday.
Marian Gaborik played the hero in Game 3, tallying with 5:19 remaining in the third overtime to give the Rangers the edge in the series. Rangers center Brad Richards gained control of the puck off a Dan Girardi wraparound to the left rear of the Washington net, and fed in front for Gaborik, who ripped a wrister home to cap the marathon contest. It was the fifth-longest game in Rangers history.
The score prevented the Blueshirts from sharing a slice of dubious NHL history. New York had dropped seven straight OT playoff games, one shy of the league mark held by both the Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames. Prior to Wednesday, the Rangers' last overtime win in the postseason occurred on April 29, 2007, a 2-1 double-OT decision against Buffalo in Game 3 of the Eastern semis.
For Gaborik, it was just the second goal in 10 playoff contests this spring and his first since scoring in New York's postseason opener against Ottawa on April 12. Gaborik, who led the Rangers with 41 goals and 76 points in the regular season, is second on the team with seven points in this spring's playoffs.
"I hope it gets Gabby (Gaborik) going, it's a guy we need as we continue," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Gaborik's game-winner.
Ryan Callahan netted a second-period power-play goal for the Rangers, who improved their record on the road this postseason to 3-1. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 45 shots, while his counterpart Braden Holtby made 47 saves.
John Carlson picked up the regulation score for the Capitals, who had two days off to regroup before hosting this afternoon's test.
"You go into triple overtime, it's a special game, but it's just one game and you have to bounce back," Capitals head coach Dale Hunter said.
The Capitals had won their previous five playoff overtime games against the Rangers, dating back to April 23, 1986 -- Game 4 of the Patrick Division finals.
Washington fell to 1-3 on home ice in the playoffs after going 26-11-4 at the Verizon Center in the regular season. New York is 3-1 on the road this postseason and was 24-12-5 away from the Big Apple during the 2011-12 campaign.
The Capitals are in the second round for the third time in four seasons, but Washington hasn't made it to the conference finals since 1998, when it earned the franchise's only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
New York is the top seed in the East for the first time since it won its last Stanley Cup title in 1994. The Rangers are aiming for their first conference finals appearance since 1997.
This marks the seventh playoff series between the Rangers and Capitals and Washington has taken four of those six matchups. The Capitals beat New York in the conference quarterfinals in both 2009 and 2011, winning last year's series in just five games. The last time the Rangers defeated Washington was in the 1994 conference semifinals.