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.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said the team’s struggling power play was discussed during intermission, and the talk paid off.
“It was a really good power play,” Girardi said.
“Brass made a heck of a play to get it to the middle of the ice. I knew I was going to shoot far side. It just happened to go in.”
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 when defenceman Karl Alzner’s shot caromed in off of Perreault for his second of the game at 7:31 of the third.
Henrik Lundqvist, announced as a Vezina Trophy finalist earlier Wednesday, made 27 saves. Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots for Washington.
New York has won only one series in which it trailed 0-2.
“So far we’re just taking care of business at home,” Lundqvist said. “Coming back home being down two games, we had a lot of pressure, but we stepped up. So far we just tied the series. We still need to do whatever we can to get the next one.”
The Rangers scored four goals in each of their two home playoff wins after registering only one total goal in two road losses.
“We knew it was going to be a tough series,” Holtby said. “They played really well these last two games and there is some stuff we need to work on. It’s a three-game series now. We still have home-ice advantage.”
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 defenceman 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.
Defenceman 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.