The New York Rangers broke through with a win in their first home game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and hope to even the best-of-seven set when they host the Washington Capitals in Wednesday's Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
New York lost the first two games of this series in D.C., dropping a 3-1 decision in Game 1 before losing the second contest 1-0 in overtime.
However, the sixth-seeded Rangers were able to cut the deficit to two games to one on Monday, as they notched a 4-3 win over the visiting Capitals. The back- and-forth battle was ultimately decided by Derek Stepan's go-ahead goal with 6:25 remaining in the third period and New York held on for the win from there.
The Rangers' offense came to life after scoring just one total goal over the first two games of the series. Derick Brassard led the way with a goal and two assists, while Brian Boyle got back on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist for New York, which converted just 1-of-6 tries on the power play but killed off a late penalty to Brad Richards to secure the win.
Arron Asham also lit the lamp for the Rangers, who received a 28-save effort from Henrik Lundqvist and beat Braden Holtby four times on 30 shots.
Crisp passing in the offensive zone led to the deciding tally. New York's Ryan McDonagh moved the puck from the point to the left corner, where Mats Zuccarello quickly fired a cross-ice feed behind the net to Rick Nash. Nash sent the puck on net from the boards, and it found Stepan's stick for a perfect deflection.
"It was a great pass. I didn't do much, I just went to the net and put my stick on the ice," Stepan said.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin drew a penalty on Richards with 1:54 to go, and the Capitals pulled Holtby for a 6-on-4 advantage that went for naught.
"We took too many penalties," Ovechkin said. "The blame is on us."
Ovechkin led the NHL with 32 goals during the regular season, but he's managed just one goal and one assist in three games of this series so far. The superstar winger has 31 goals and 30 assists for 61 points over 54 career playoff games.
Washington hopes to rebound Wednesday with a win, which would set up a potential series-clinching contest when the clubs meet for Game 5 in D.C. on Friday.
The Rangers got a key player back on the ice Monday in defenseman Marc Staal, who returned from a 29-game absence due to a serious eye injury and had 17:17 worth of ice time.
New York also could get forward Ryane Clowe back in Game 4 after he sat out the last four games with an undisclosed injury. He participated in a full- contact practice on Tuesday and could see his first action tonight since playing in New York's second-to-last game of the regular season.
Clowe was acquired from San Jose at the trade deadline and posted three goals and five assists in 12 games with the Rangers.
These two clubs are familiar foes in the postseason of late, as this is the fourth time in the past five years they have met. The Capitals took the first two matchups, but the Rangers won a seven-game series in the conference semifinals last year.
Washington has won four of the seven all-time playoff series between these two clubs, but the Rangers took two of three from the Capitals in the regular season