NEW YORK – Derek Stepan scored 11:24 in overtime, lifting the New York Rangers past the Washington Capitals 2-1 and into the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night.
Stepan's wrist shot from the left wing after he won a faceoff — a rarity for the Rangers — capped a comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the series. The Rangers are the only team to manage that in successive years, doing the same thing to Pittsburgh in the second round in 2014.
"We knew we had to keep working hard,'' said Stepan, a Hastings native.
Alex Ovechkin scored in the first period for Washington, which has lost five Game 7s in as many tries when leading a series 3-1. Kevin Hayes tied it in the second.
New York, which had the NHL's best record this season, will face Tampa Bay for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, where the Rangers lost to Los Angeles last spring. The series begins Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves for the Rangers, including eight in overtime, when the Capitals pressured from the start.
"They really came out flying, and we had some tough times,'' Lundqvist said. "The difference between these teams was so small. You just had to keep doing your job.''
Braden Holtby stopped 37 shots, including five in overtime, for Washington.