NEW YORK — Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan scored third-period goals for the New York Rangers, who squandered a two-goal lead and then held on to get even in the best-of-seven playoff series with a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
Girardi ripped a shot from above the left circle, off a feed from Derick Brassard, to give the Rangers the lead again with a power-play goal 59 seconds into the third. The advantage was created by Jason Chimera’s interference penalty at the end of the second.
Stepan made it 4-2 at 6:02, scoring into a wide-open net at the end of a give-and-go play in front with Carl Hagelin, who had a goal and two assists.
Game 5 will be back in Washington on Friday before the series returns to Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The home team has won all four games in the first-round Eastern Conference matchup.
Brad Richards and Hagelin staked the Rangers to a 2-0 lead, but goals by Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer tied it for Washington in the second period. The Capitals closed within 4-3 on defenseman Karl Alzner’s goal at 7:31 of the third.
Henrik Lundqvist, selected a Vezina Trophy finalist earlier Wednesday, made 27 saves. Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots for Washington.
Despite having a 26-15 shots advantage through two periods, the Rangers found themselves locked in a tie heading into the third. Washington was outshot 13-9 in the second but scored twice in the final 6:52 to get even after Hagelin made it 2-0.
The Capitals began spending more time in the New York zone and making it increasingly difficult for the Rangers to get the puck out. The momentum was shifting, and the nervousness began to grow within the crowd as Washington’s puck possession became more dangerous.
Joel Ward got the Capitals going when he led a strong rush up ice after the Rangers gave away the puck. Ward charged in, with Perreault, and made a hard move on defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Ward got Del Zotto down to the ice near the left post and feathered a pass through the crease to Perreault, who tied up Richards and slid in his first career playoff goal.
The Rangers appeared set to get out of the second with the one-goal lead they brought into it, but Brouwer’s first of the playoffs tied it.
Defenseman Anton Stralman lost the puck in his end along the right-wing boards, and Mike Green barely kept the puck in at the point. He sent a pass into the high slot to Brouwer, who backhanded in a shot with 17.1 seconds left in the period.
Hagelin’s second goal of the series doubled the Rangers’ lead midway through the second. Brassard, who had a goal and two assists in the Rangers’ 4-3 win in Game 3, made a hard pass from the right point to the left circle that Hagelin fired into the top right corner of the net.
The Rangers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first off a gaffe by Holtby. The goalie drifted to his left to track down a Rangers dump-in several feet in front and wide of the net. His clearing attempt was knocked down by New York forward Taylor Pyatt, who moved the puck to Hagelin.
With Holtby well out of position, Hagelin’s hard shot at a net guarded only by defenseman John Erskine was saved by Erskine. The rebound bounced in front to Richards, who scored his first goal of the series and 28th in 87 career postseason games.
The otherwise calm period picked up in intensity in the final three-plus minutes.
The Rangers were killing a tripping penalty against Del Zotto and got a short-handed chance. Stepan and Washington’s Martin Erat raced after a puck that was sliding into the Washington end. They collided as Alex Ovechkin barreled into both players and knocked them down.
Stepan slid hard into the end boards behind Holtby, and Erat had his arm pinned as he fell into the net. Ovechkin and Erat were penalized for charging and hooking, respectively, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 power that began after Del Zotto left the penalty box 23 seconds later.
New York couldn’t do anything with the two-man edge in the final 1:11 of the period, or the final 26 seconds that carried over into the second.
NOTES: The Rangers were without D Marc Staal, who returned in Game 3 from a serious eye injury that forced him to miss 29 games. New York got back LW Ryane Clowe after he sat out four games because of a suspected concussion sustained in the final week of the regular season. He earned an assist on Hagelin’s goal. … Erat was unable to serve his penalty because of injury. … Brouwer has seven career playoff goals. … The Rangers were 1 for 4 on the power play and are 2 for 17 in the series.
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