Brandon Dubinsky scored with 1:39 left in regulation and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves as the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, leaving them with a 2-1 series deficit heading into Game 4.
It appeared the teams could be headed for their second overtime game after Mike Knuble picked up the rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom slap shot and put it past a sprawling Lundqvist, tying the game at 2-2 with 5:12 remaining in the third period.
But Dubinsky’s unassisted marker came late with less than two minutes left when he drove from behind the net, pulled the puck out front and had it carom off Karl Alzner’s stick and over the head of Michal Neuvirth.
Knuble scored for Washington while Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and an assist and Neuvirth made 32 saves.
Much like Game 1 and 2, neither goalie was beaten in the opening period. However, both squads continued the physical play that has personified the matchup, with the Rangers outhitting the Caps 21-15 in the stanza.
After Matt Hendricks and Knuble took penalties 35 seconds apart, the Rangers were unable to convert on their chances, wasting a 5-on-3 power play that saw continual pressure around the Washington net.
John Carlson was called for cross-checking at 4:41 of the second period and Christensen took advantage, rifling a wrist shot from a dubious angle that found its way over Neuvirth’s left shoulder, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Christensen’s goal was New York’s first power play marker in eight chances during the series.
Ovechkin scored his second goal of the playoffs, deflecting a Jason Arnott pass over the glove hand of Lundqvist, tying the game 1-1.
The two-time Hart Trophy winner has factored in on five of the six goals scored by the Caps in the series.
The Rangers appeared to take the lead back with 0.1 seconds left in the middle frame but video review determined the puck had not crossed the goal-line in time, keeping the score tied heading into the third.
Outshooting the Capitals 19-14 through two periods, New York continued driving to the net and their determination would finally be rewarded.
Marc Staal’s slap shot from the point was steered aside by Neuvirth but it squirted over to Prospal, who deposited the puck into the gaping cage at 8:01, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
After Knuble tied the game at 2-2 with 5:12 remaining in regulation, Dubinsky provided the heroics, cutting the series lead in half heading into Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Notes: Referee Chris Rooney left in the second period with an apparent knee injury. He was replaced by Frederic L’Ecuyer … Marian Gaborik has zero goals in his last nine playoff games.