NEW YORK — Marc Staal scored a power-play goal 1:35 into overtime after Brad Richards tied it in the dying seconds of regulation to lift the New York Rangers to a stunning 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night.
With goalie Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker, Washington's Joel Ward took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Carl Hagelin with 21.3 seconds left in the third period. Richards tied it on the first half of the power play with just 7.6 seconds to go, and Staal won it with a drive that appeared to deflect off a Washington player before beating goalie Braden Holtby.
The top-seeded Rangers can advance to the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday in Washington. If necessary, Game 7 would be back in New York on Saturday.
With the crowd still buzzing over the shocking tying goal, a din that held up through the long intermission, John Mitchell won a faceoff in the Capitals' end to start the winning play. Staal corralled the puck at the right point, glided to the center of the zone, and fired the drive that set off a wild celebration on the ice and in the seats at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers mobbed each other at center ice as the crushed Capitals trudged toward the tunnel to their dressing room and then raised their sticks to the crowd as red, white and blue streamers cascaded down from the rooftop.
The celebration, that culminated in fireworks as the three stars of the game were announced to the crowd, seemed almost inevitable after Richards tied it.
After no success with traditional 5-on-4 power plays, the Rangers made the most of their 6-on-4 edge as Lundqvist watched from the bench.
Michael Del Zotto took a shot that hit traffic in front to the right of Holtby. Ryan Callahan took two or three hard whacks at the loose puck, but couldn't get it forward. Richards jammed his stick into the maze of legs and poked the puck past Holtby just before he was able to cover it with his glove.
John Carlson, who had given the Capitals a 2-1 lead in the third period, couldn't keep the puck out, either, after he got in behind Holtby as a last line of defense.
COYOTES 2, PREDATORS 1: At Glendale, Ariz. — Mike Smith stopped 32 shots to help the Coyotes beat the Predators to earn their first trip to the Western Conference finals.
The Coyotes learned earlier in the day that a tentative deal with a new owner had been reached.
They followed up with another tight victory, withstanding a late goal by Nashville's Colin Wilson to reach the conference finals for the first time in 33 years as an NHL franchise.
Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal each scored and Smith nearly had an empty-net goal to set off a raucous celebration in the desert. The Coyotes will face the Los Angeles Kings, the first No. 8 seed to knock off Nos. 1 and 2 in the same playoffs.
Nashville fell short of the conference finals for the second straight season despite getting forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn back from two-game suspensions and Wilson's late goal. The Predators hit the post at least three times and managed one goal despite outshooting the Coyotes 33-17.
The Coyotes got some long-awaited good news before the game, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league had a tentative deal to sell the team to former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison.
There's no official sale agreement yet and Jamison still needs to work out lease details with the city of Glendale, which could be a dicey proposition with conservative watchdog group the Goldwater Institute lurking. Still, after three years of waiting, the move toward ownership and staying in the desert took a big step.
It had already been a great season.
Relying on Smith and their protect-at-all-costs mentality, the unflashy Coyotes won their first division title as an NHL franchise and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
NHL CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
N.Y. Rangers 3, Washington 2
Monday: Rangers 3, Washington 2
New Jersey 3, Philadelphia 1
Today: New Jersey at Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m.
Phoenix 4, Nashville 1
Monday: Phoenix 2, Nashville 1
Los Angeles 4, St. Louis 0
Next: Western Conference Finals