Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Holding Serve

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Holding Serve

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- One must-win begat another must-win situation for the Rangers.

For just as surely as the Rangers did not want to lose the first three games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal to the Capitals, they must be desperate to avoid going back to Washington for Game 5 on the brink of elimination.

Given an early emotional boost by defenseman Marc Staal's return from a horrific facial injury and with their power-play finally providing some scoring, the Rangers beat the Capitals, 4-3, Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The Capitals lead the series, 2-1, with Game 4 on Wednesday night at the Garden.

Derek Stepan scored the winner at 13:35 of the third period, tipping in Rick Nash's sharp-angle shot from the right.

"I think we're close," said Rangers coach John Tortorella, calling the series "more even" than the scoreboard indicated. "It means squat if you don't win."

And to win, the Rangers had to defend the final 1:54 with the Capitals on the power play after Brad Richards tapped Alex Ovechkin with his stick at center ice and Ovechkin sold it for a slashing call. That became a six-on-four advantage when Braden Holtby (26 saves) was pulled for an extra skater.

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.

"It was an interesting game," Stepan said. "The flows of it were up and down. Early lead, they tie it. We get another one, they tie it.

"As a team we just stuck together. On the bench everyone had a good feeling."

Staal, paired with Anton Stralman, played 17:17 in his first game since being hit by a puck near his right eye March 5 when the Flyers' Kimmo Timonen had his shot deflected upward by Jakub Voracek.

Arron Asham, moved up from the fourth line with Darroll Powe absent most of the game, gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 2:53 of the third period as center Derick Brassard found him in the slot.

But defenseman Jack Hillen beat Lundqvist on a shot that was deflected to the goalie's left through traffic by Jay Beagle to tie the game at 3 at 7:19.

The Rangers had more offensive chances as the Capitals' penalty parade continued with six called by 6:32 of the second period.

That culminated in a 2-1 lead on Brassard's power-play goal at 1:23 of the second period after Mats Zuccarello found him open in the slot from the right boards after Holtby tripped Nash at 1:15. …

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