With their backs against the wall, the New York Rangers played a spirited game at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon and skated away with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. Brandon Dubinsky scored the game winner for New York with just 1:39 left in the third period while Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves to earn the win.
While the Rangers came out playing an aggressive, physical game, both teams continued their strong defensive play. Most shots in the first period came on the power play and the Caps continued to play strong team defense.
“It’s a tight checking game. The chances are hard to come by for both teams,” Rangers Coach John Tortorella admitted. “We found a way to score some goals. There’s no magic potion. We played the kind of game we want to play, we scored three and they scored two.”
After a scoreless first period, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead at the 5:30 mark of the 2nd stanza on a power play goal by Erik Christensen. The shot came from a tough angle on the off wing and surprised Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth before going over his shoulder.
The Capitals evened the score with 1:00 left in the second when Alex Ovechkin redirected a pass from Jason Arnott and poked it past Lundqvist. Ovechkin snuck behind the Rangers defense and was open to deflect the puck into an open side of the net.
The Rangers thought they had tied the game as time expired in the second period when the puck deflected into the net on a scramble in the crease. After a re video review by the War Room in Toronto, it was ruled the clock read 0.0 when the puck crossed the goal line and the goal was waived off. The two teams went into the locker room tied 1-1.
Despite the disappointment of having the goal waived off, the Rangers continued to battle in the third period. Vinny Prospal gave them a 2-1 lead when he poked home the rebound of a Marc Staal shot from the right point. Caps defenseman Karl Alzner went to cover Marian Gaborik and left Prospal alone in the slot for the go-ahead goal.
The Caps tied it on a power play with 5:12 left in regulation when Mike Knuble buried the rebound of a shot by Nicklas Backstrom from three feet out. Good cross ice passing by Washington left three Rangers penalty killers stuck on one side of the ice which left Knuble uncovered in the slot.
The game appeared headed for overtime before Dubinsky’s winner which came on a four-on-four skating situation. He fired a bouncing puck past Neuvirth and went in off Ovechkin’s stick. “It was a quick play and it was nice,” Dubinsky said. I just tried to take the puck hard to the net. We had a battle in the corner and there wasn’t much time. We got a great bounce and it goes in. I was trying to bring pucks to the net and bang something in there.”
The win was a big one for the Rangers who still trail in the series two games to one. “The great part is that one game can change a lot,” Lundqvist said. “Our focus was to come in here and get a win and to try to change the momentum of the series a little bit. It was great to see the finish we had tonight. We were close in both games [in Washington]. So we know it is just a matter of getting that extra play or extra goal and we got it tonight.”
Expect more of this hard working, tight defensive style from both teams when the series resumes Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden for Game 4.
“I think we played better at grinding underneath the hash marks,” Tortorella said when asked about what his team did differently in Game 3. “That is how we have to do it. We are not good enough—we have to grind.”
Mats Zuccarello was again a healthy scratch for the Rangers. Sean Avery played well in his place.
Brian Boyle led all players with nine shots on goal and Brandon Dubinsky led all players with seven hits. Rangers captain Chris Drury won 15 of 19 faceoffs.
There was a brief delay during the game when one of the officials was injured and had to be replaced by a standby referee.