Rangers avoid digging 3-0 series hole, hold on to beat Caps

Denis Gorman, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The task facing the New York Rangers was as straightforward as can be.
Win a game.
They did just that, thanks to Derek Stepan.
Stepan's go-ahead goal with 6:25 left in regulation led the New York Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
"It was a good goal for me," Stepan said of his game-winner. The third-year center drove down the slot and redirected Rick Nash's centering feed under Braden Holtby's legs.
"It definitely helped."
The Rangers still trail in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, 2-1. Game 4 is Wednesday night at The Garden. The Capitals have never swept an opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's huge," Stepan said of the win. "We definitely knew it was a big game. We didn't want to go down three-zip. [Monday night] changed the series quite a bit."
Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves for the Rangers, and Stepan, Arron Asham, Derick Brassard and Brian Boyle scored goals for New York. Brassard, in his third Stanley Cup Playoff game ever -- all with the Rangers -- finished with a game-high three points.
"We got some good minutes from Brian Boyle, [Brassard]; a number of people helped out tonight. We're going to need that to stay alive," John Tortorella said. "I thought [Brassard] played a complete game. He made some really good offensive plays, but I thought he also battled defensively. He doesn't play much in this type of situation. He played a really good game for us.
"I just made a read during the game on who is going. I thought right from the get-go he was involved and hopefully it propels him into doing it more. We're going to need even better play out of a lot of people if we're going to keep competing in the series."
The Rangers also benefited from an emotional surge created by Marc Staal's return. The defenseman had been out since March 5 with an eye injury. Staal, who was in the starting lineup, attempted two shots in 17:17 of ice time.
"I thought I would be a lot more nervous than I was. I felt pretty good going into the game and I think the confidence is going to grow the more I'm out there and the more I'm in game situations," Staal said. "I'll feel a lot better the next game."
While the Rangers were relieved that they extended the series to a fifth game, the third-seeded Capitals lamented missed opportunities.
Washington attempted 64 shots in Game 3, with only Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Jay Beagle scoring. Beagle's goal at the 7:19 mark of the third period tied the game, 3-3.
"If we have the chance to shoot, yes, we have to shoot," Alexander Ovechkin said. "I think we didn't find the shooting lanes and we moved the puck too slow."
Holtby made 26 saves in a losing cause.
New York went 1-for-6 on the power play. Washington was 0-for-3 on the man advantage, including a 6-on-4 for the final 1:54.
"Special teams are going to be really important for the playoffs," Brassard said. "Our penalty kill is always good. Guys are blocking shots and [Lundqvist] is our best penalty killer all the time. It's stressful on the bench, but the guys did the job."
NOTES: One of the reasons that the Capitals entered Monday night's game with a 2-0 series lead was the play of the Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson line. The trio had two goals, two assists and 33 shots on goal in the first two games, both at Washington's Verizon Center. "That line, the chemistry they have, when they're on their game, I think all three guys can generate more shots," Washington coach Adam Oates said in his news conference at Madison Square Garden during the morning skate. "Obviously, Ovie is the No. 1 guy; he's the shooter of the three. Both guys kind of cater to that, but they still have their opportunities in the game." ... Even though the Rangers were down 2-0 in the series and have just one goal to show for their efforts, Tortorella didn't believe the situation was as dire as has been stated. "It definitely happens. I'm not saying you guys [media] do -- you guys have your heads stuck in your computers, but I'm not saying you guys," Tortorella said when asked if people weigh the outcome of games more heavily than what took place on the ice. "I can't afford to do that. It's a game of results, there is no question about that, but I can't go about the process of coaching a hockey game on what the result was." ... New York improved to 209-228-8 all time in the Stanley Cup playoffs. "You have to give them a little bit of credit," Oates said. "Their barn, they got a game back. We have to come back out [Wednesday] night."

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