Once merely 101 seconds from having their season end, then forced to hold off a furious Game 6 rally, Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers are now one victory away from returning to the Eastern Conference finals.
Kreider scored 40 seconds after the opening faceoff and with 0.3 seconds left in the first period Sunday night, Rick Nash and Dan Boyle added goals in the third, and the Rangers barely held on to beat the Washington Capitals, 4-3, and force a Game 7 in the second round.
New York led 2-0, then 4-1 with less than 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation. But Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov and Joel Ward put the puck past Henrik Lundqvist less than 3 minutes apart to make it a one-goal game with nearly half a period to go.
That prompted the Rangers to call timeout and brought much of the red-clad fans to their feet, screaming “Let's go, Caps!” and then mockingly singing Lundqvist's last name.
But the Swedish goalie was solid the rest of the way, stopping Washington's last four shots — including Alex Ovechkin on a 1-on-1 — and surviving a late Capitals power play to finish with 42 saves. That's a career high for Lundqvist in a playoff game that didn't go to overtime.
After two days off, the teams will wrap things up Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden — a fitting finish for a matchup in which each of the first six games was decided by one goal.
The winner of Game 7 will face the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Montreal Canadiens next. Tampa Bay leads that conference semifinal series 3-2.
This was the 13th consecutive playoff game involving the Rangers decided by one goal — all 11 this postseason, and two last year — the longest streak in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
They also ended Washington's five-game home playoff winning streak. The Capitals hadn't lost consecutive games in more than two months, but they tend to have trouble when it comes to closing out postseason series. And while what's happened in the past does not guarantee anything in the present, the history of both teams certainly favors New York heading into Game 7.
The Rangers have won nine consecutive home playoff games when facing elimination, a streak that dates to May 1, 2008, and includes Friday night's 2-1 OT win in Game 5 of this series. Lundqvist was the goalie in all nine of those.
In all previous series that they led 3-1, meanwhile, the Capitals have been pushed to Game 7 four times — and they're 0-4.
Sunday's game began with a jolt thanks to Kreider's second goal of the series within the opening minute of a game against Braden Holtby.
Kreider also is the player who tied Game 5 with 1:41 left in regulation, before Ryan McDonagh got the overtime winner.
And Kreider's one-man show continued Sunday on a power play, making it 2-0 after Capitals forward Troy Brouwer was whistled for roughing with 3.4 seconds left in the first period.
After that wide-open first period, in which the teams combined for 37 shots, the action stayed fast and furious in the second, with Washington outshooting New York 18-4. And as if to say, “Hey, this game isn't over,” the Capitals got on the scoreboard with their own quick strike, by Jason Chimera, 28 seconds in, making it 2-1.
After Nash added his first goal of the series 54 seconds into the third period, and Boyle put a slap shot past a screened Holtby 3 1/2 minutes later for the Rangers, the Presidents' Trophy winners, the Capitals made things interesting but couldn't get the tying score.