WASHINGTON - The New York Rangers played what amounted to two games over 2 days just to get one win against the Washington Capitals.
Each team scored a goal in the second period, then skated up and down the ice for the next 83 minutes before Marian Gaborik gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory at 14:41 of the third overtime to end the 20th longest game in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs, a tense matchup that began on Wednesday night and spilled into Thursday.
If it was the decisive game of the tight Eastern Conference series, Rangers coach John Tortorella might have been far more enthusiastic about the outcome. Instead, he looked at the win for exactly what it was: a gritty performance that provided New York with a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven confrontation that doesn't appear destined to end anytime soon.
"It's one game," Tortorella said in a conference call Thursday. "You take the good things out of it and try to keep momentum on your side."
It's impossible to say whether the good feeling the Rangers derived from the victory will carry into Saturday, when the teams meet in Washington for Game 4.
The Capitals trailed Boston 2-1 in games before winning in seven, so they have no reason to believe the Game 3 loss will be any more difficult to overcome.
"We have confidence in our team," Washington's Troy Brouwer said. "We played a real good game, I thought, holding them to one goal, almost, for two whole hockey games. I mean, if we continue playing like we did, creating offense, blocking shots, you know, playing good, patient hockey, we'll be successful."
Capitals coach Dale Hunter played in a four-overtime game and now has stood behind the bench for a three-overtime thriller. He lost both games, but neither of them ended a series.
"Well, you go into triple overtime, it's a special game," Hunter said in the wee hours of Thursday morning. "But it's just one game and you got to bounce back."
Gaborik won it with a goal in the 115th minute. The game started at 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday and ended at 12:14 a.m. Thursday.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was too exhausted to let out a yell afterward. More than excitement, he experienced relief.
"It's a feeling where, usually, I scream because I'm so excited. I was just too tired," Lundqvist said after his 45-save performance. "I kept saying, 'Oh my God, it's over.' I mean, oh my God. It felt like it was never going to end. It's a special feeling, being a goalie and playing in overtime. All it takes is a bad decision, a mistake, and it's over. At the same time, you feel like every save makes a difference. It's a pretty cool feeling to be out there."
At Los Angeles, former Flyers Mike Richards and Justin Williams scored goals as the Kings defeated St. Louis, 4-2, for a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.