The New York Rangers were under two minutes away from ending their chase for the Stanley Cup and their 2014-15 season.
As the final minutes of Friday night’s game ticked away, the Washington Capitals were holding onto a 1-0 lead from a goal by Curtis Glencross midway through the third. The game was a must-win for the Rangers, and it was in front of a packed home crowd at Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t a night for goodbyes. It was a night for willpower, a never-say-die attitude, and a comeback.
Chris Kreider started the rally. With 1:41 remaining in regulation, Kreider buried a pass from Derek Stepan at the top of the circle and evened the score at 1-1. His third goal of the playoffs was enough to send the game into overtime and give the Rangers momentum and a second chance.
Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was the overtime hero. Jesper Fast brought the puck up the ice midway through the OT period and passed it over to Stepan. Stepan fed it behind him to McDonagh, who had time to set up the shot and find the back of the net at 9:37. McDonagh’s goal gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory and another opportunity to turn the series around. The Rangers are now 3-0 in overtime games this postseason and 9-0 in their last nine playoff elimination games on home ice. This game was their tenth consecutive one-goal decision.
Braden Holtby‘s strong play in net continued to plague the Rangers throughout the game. He stopped 41 of 43 shots on the night, while Henrik Lundqvist saved 28 of 29. It wasn’t finding scoring chances that was the problem; it was finishing them. Every Rangers player but James Sheppard registered at least one shot on goal; Keith Yandle led the team with five.
The Capitals nearly took a 1-0 lead in the second period, but defenseman Matt Niskanen‘s goal was overturned; Joel Ward had been positioned in front of the net and interfered with Lundqvist as the puck went in, and the score remained 0-0 going into the second intermission. Holtby stopped a number of good scoring chances for the Rangers as well, including several by Martin St. Louis, who has yet to score this postseason.
Game Six will find the teams back at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, on Sunday. The Capitals will be looking to close out the series at home and return to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1998. The Rangers will work to bring the series back to MSG for Game Seven and move on from there. The Capitals currently hold a 3-games-to-2 series lead.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME: