- Trailed 3-1 in series before winning final three games
- Rangers move on to face Tampa Bay Lightning in next round
The Rangers have now won their last six Game 7s dating back to 2012, including three in that span against Washington. The win also extended New York’s streak of one-goal-margin playoff games to 14, an NHL record.
All 12 of New York’s playoff games this postseason have been decided by one goal, including three overtime victories.
Stepan knocked a rebound of a Dan Girardi shot past Washington goalie Braden Holtby with 11 minutes, 24 seconds gone in the overtime period Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden to send the Rangers to the next round.
“It’s hard to really explain,” Girardi told reporters. “We were down and it looked like we were down and out, and we found a way to crawl back in this series and win one game at a time.”
New York will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals. The Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens to reach the conference championship round.
Washington captain Alexander Ovechkin had guaranteed a victory after the Capitals’ Game 6 loss, in which they outshot New York 45-28 and had 96 total shot attempts. The three-time league Most Valuable Player scored Washington’s only goal on Wednesday, midway through the first period.
Kevin Hayes tied it up for the Rangers on a power play early in the second period.
The Rangers fell into a 3-1 series hole after losing Games 3 and 4 at Washington. They rallied with a 2-1 overtime win at home, then held off a late Capitals rally for a 4-3 road win on Sunday.
The Rangers also rallied from a 3-1 series deficit last season against Pittsburgh, and Wednesday’s win makes them the first NHL team to accomplish the feat in back-to-back seasons. They beat the Capitals in seven-game series in 2012 and 2013.
The team’s recent Game 7 success has come largely through the success of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who entered Wednesday’s game boasting a 0.80 goals-against-average and .973 save percentage in his previous five Game 7 appearances.
History hasn’t been as kind to the Capitals, who have lost all five Game 7s in series that they’ve led 3-1. Washington has now lost 11 of its past 14 games when the team had an opportunity to close a series.
New York hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1994. Last year the Rangers fell in the Stanley Cup Final to the Los Angeles Kings.