Capitals Fall Short 2-1 in OT, Head to Offseason | NBC4 Washington
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Capitals Fall Short 2-1 in OT, Head to Offseason

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Alex Ovechkin scores a goal in the first period past Ryan McDonagh in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

     

    Make the resilient Rangers play a Game 7 and they don't even flinch.

     

    Dump them into a 3-1 hole in a playoff series and they simply work harder.

    Peter Dejong/AP

    And win.

    Derek Stepan scored 11:24 in overtime, lifting New York past the Washington Capitals 2-1 and into the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night.

    Stepan's wrist shot from the left wing after he won a faceoff -- a rarity for the Rangers -- capped the comeback. The Rangers are the only team to manage that in successive years, doing the same thing to Pittsburgh in the second round in 2014.

    "It's a very special win," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 35 saves and became the third goalie to win six Game 7s, joining Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.

    New York, which had the NHL's best record this season, will face Tampa Bay for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals, where the Rangers lost to Los Angeles last spring. The series begins Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

    Alex Ovechkin scored in the first period for Washington, which has lost five Game 7s in as many tries when leading a series 3-1. Kevin Hayes tied it in the second.

    Although the Rangers were badly outplayed early in overtime, Lundqvist stood tall with eight saves as the Capitals couldn't find that winning touch. That's something the Rangers seem to own in a seventh game: New York has won six in a row, including the last three series against Washington.

    It was the Rangers' fourth overtime win in as many tries this year, all by 2-1 scores. It was a cruel finish for Braden Holtby, who was superb all series and made 37 saves Wednesday night.

    Perhaps a welcome harbinger for the Rangers: The last time they won a Game 7 in overtime was 1994, when they beat the Devils and, one round later, hoisted their most recent Stanley Cup.

    Washington was quicker to the puck than the generally faster Rangers in the first period, when Lundqvist was much busier than Holtby, making 14 saves. The difference through 20 minutes: Washington's top goal scorer connected on his best chance, New York's didn't.

    Ovechkin, who scored 53 times to lead the league, somehow got wide open in the slot after the Capitals won a faceoff and worked the puck off the boards. His wrist shot beat Lundqvist to the glove side.

    Late in the period, while killing a penalty, the Rangers' Rick Nash, who trailed Ovechkin by 11 goals during the season, got free on a breakaway. He tried to deke Holtby and go through the legs, but his backhander was stopped as the fans lamented a missed opportunity.

    The Rangers' sometimes-anemic, sometimes-opportunistic power play tied it in the second period. Tireless defenseman Ryan McDonagh kept in a clearing attempt at the right point and passed to J.T. Miller. His cross-ice feed to a cutting Hayes was perfect and Hayes put it past Holtby.

    That sparked the Rangers for a while, but by the end of the period, the Capitals were buzzing the net. No one could score, and into the third period they went.

    And then into overtime after a spotty, nervous session in which the best opportunities came very late. Lundqvist made a pad save off Ovechkin's wrist short following a Washington faceoff win, and Holtby stopped Dominic Moore's backhander in the final minute.

    NOTES: New York lost D Dan Boyle in the second period after he was hit in the head by Brooks Orpik's elbow. ... Hayes is the first Rangers rookie to score in a Game 7 since Muzz Patrick in 1939. ... The Rangers extended an NHL record with their 14th straight one-goal game, dating to last year's Stanley Cup finals loss to Los Angeles. ... The Capitals did not score a power-play goal in the final five games. ... Tampa Bay swept three games from New York this season.