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 to give the Rangers the lead again with a power-play goal 59 seconds into the third.
Stepan made it 4-2 at 6:02, scoring into an 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.
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 on defenseman Karl Alzner’s goal at 7:31 of the third.
Henrik Lundqvist, selected a Vezina Trophy finalist earlier Wednesday, made 27 saves. Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots for Washington.
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.
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 defenseman 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 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.
Defenseman Anton Stralman lost the puck in his end, and Mike Green 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. Derick 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.
The Rangers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first off a gaffe by Holtby. The goalie drifted to his left to track down a Rangers dump-in. His clearing attempt was knocked down by New York forward Taylor Pyatt, who moved the puck to Hagelin.
With Holtby well out of position, Hagelin’s hard shot at a net guarded only by defenseman John Erskine was saved by Erskine.
The rebound bounced in front to Richards, who scored his first goal of the series.
CANADIENS: Forward Brian Gionta will have surgery on his torn left biceps Friday, knocking him out of the rest of the playoffs. The Montreal captain sat out Games 2 and 4 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators.
PENGUINS: Coach Dan Bylsma said backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be in net for Game 5 Thursday. The series is tied 2-2 after the New York Islanders won 6-4 in Game 4 on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh starter Marc-Andre Fleury played poorly in the loss. Vokoun went 3-0 against the Islanders during the regular season, but the 36-year-old has just a 3-8 career playoff record.