Three goals in the second period gave the Rangers a substantial 3-0 lead heading into the final frame of regulation. The Garden was rocking as only the Garden could, with chants of “Boouudreeaauu” and “CAN YOU HEAR US?!”, in response to Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau’s comments that the fans at MSG weren’t as loud as the fans at Verizon Center.

The Capitals and their coach were clearly rattled. The Rangers were 29-0-0 this season when leading after two periods. The series was all but tied up at 2-2, with the momentum swinging back to the Rangers as they headed into Washington for Game 5.

Or so we all dreamt.

Recap

The first period started the same way Game 3 started: physical and aggressive. Both teams came out flying, finishing their checks and upping the pressure on the forecheck. There was no scoring until 5:24 into the second period, when Artem Anisimov grabbed a loose puck from behind the net and sent it toward the crease. The puck deflected off the leg of Caps forward Matt Hendricks and sailed behind Neuvirth, giving the Rangers their third 1-0 lead of the series.

Marian Gaborik snapped a 12-game scoring drought by slamming home a no-look backhand pass (which was probably a shot, but whatever) right inside the crease from Ruslan Fedotenko, making it 2-0 Rangers at 13:40 in the second. Before the VERSUS broadcasting team could finish showing the replay of Gaborik’s goal, and before the sell-out crowd of 18,200 could even sit down, Brandon Dubinsky made it 3-0 just seven seconds after Gabby’s goal. Fedotenko took the puck on the ensuing faceoff at center ice, skated into the Caps zone and unleashed a wrist shot that hit the outside of the net. But Fedotenko grabbed the puck behind the net and delivered another sensational backhand pass, this one to Dubinsky, who buried it inside the far post. Both goals were a result of the hard work of Fedotenko, who made something out of almost nothing both times.

In the third, Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson cut the lead to one with two goals in less than a minute. Semin got it going for Washington a mere 2:47 into the third period, on a controversial play. Lundqvist had originally made a save, and had possession of the puck; but with no whistle blown Semin and Jason Arnott continued to poke at the puck until it eventually ended up in the net. Lundqvist was arguing that there should have been a whistle on the play – and there definitely should have been – but the Rangers need to clean the crease there. Semin shouldn’t be allowed to freely knife the puck out of Lundqvist’s possession, whether there was a whistle or not.

Less than a minute later, Marcus Johansson tipped Brooks Laich’s shot to the back of the net. All of a sudden, 3-2.

With 7:53 remaining in regulation Johansson scored his second career playoff goal (and second of the game) to tie it 3-3.

Lost in the Caps comeback and the Rangers collapse was a chance for the Rangers to go up 4-0. Gaborik deflected a puck wide of a wide open net in the final seconds of the second period. Could have been a dagger; but there’s a lot of “what if’s” involved in a game like this. The team that wanted it more won.

Anyway, to overtime we went.

Lundqvist stood on his head to keep his team in it throughout, as always, especially when he was forced to stop Ovechkin on a breakaway. Shades of Richter stopping Bure.

The Rangers had good chances throughout, but Neuvirth stopped them all. Their best chance, though, wasn’t stopped by the Caps goaltender. It was stopped by a ref. Dubinsky and Gaborik’s 2-on-0 was ended by referee Paul Devorksi when he collided with Dubinsky just inside the offensive zone as he was about to receive the puck. We’ll never know what could have happened.

The second OT was much like the first: both teams were battling, but the Capitals controlled possession for the majority of the period. It seemed at some points that the Rangers couldn’t even get the puck through the neutral zone; seemed like they just weren’t able execute on offense. The game ended 12:36 into the OT period when a deflected shot bounced in on Lundqvist. As he left his crease to jump on the puck to stop play, Gaborik poked at it to send it behind the net to safety; but it right into the chest of Caps forward Jason Chimera. Chimera let the puck fall to his stick and guided it into the back of the net, stunning the Rangers and silencing the Garden. To be honest I think the entire hockey world is stunned after this one.

Positives From The Game

There are a few positives to take away from a game like this. Dan Girardi, the NHL’s best shot blocker, sacrificed his body throughout the game and blocked nine shots. Marc Staal completely shut down Alex Ovechkin; aside from the breakaway where he was stoned by Lundqvist, Ovie was simply not much of a factor at any point of the game. Fedotenko showed that he is a crafty veteran, a warrior, with his great effort. Lundqvist stopped 49 out of the 53 shots he faced.

These don’t mean much when you’re leading 3-0 at home in the playoffs and you blow it, unfortunately. Still these are things to build on heading in to Saturday’s Game 5.

Facts and Stats

31-20: The Capitals outshot the Rangers 31-20 from the third period on.

1: Artem Anisimov scored his first career playoff goal.

1-0: The Rangers have now had three 1-0 leads this series. They are 1-2 when they score first.

0-7: The Rangers were 0-7 on the powerplay. This buried the Rangers more than anything.

What’s Next?

Game 5, Saturday at 3:00 in D.C. A loss ends the season, which were the high stakes the Rangers faced every day down the stretch. The Rangers have to do what they’ve been doing for months: play do or die hockey.