WASHINGTON -- New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik called it a game of will.
Gaborik ended the 20th longest game in NHL history early Thursday morning when he whacked a Brad Richards centering pass through the legs of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby 14 minutes, 41 seconds into the third overtime period, giving the Rangers a 2-1 win in front of 18,506 fans at the Verizon Center.
With the win, the Rangers grabbed a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals, which resume Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
"It takes quite a bit," Gaborik said after netting his first goal since the Rangers' playoff opener against the Ottawa Senators. "Some of us have been through this type of overtimes. But we're glad we came up with a win. Everybody contributed. Everybody left everything out there."
"Oh, my God, I thought it would never end," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said after stopping 45 shots to earn the win. "This is a special feeling."
The game lasted 4 hours, 34 minutes and ended at 12:14 a.m. Eastern Time. It was the fourth-longest in Rangers history and the longest for the Blueshirts since 1939. It was third-longest game in Capitals history and the longest ever in the Verizon Center.
"When you get into that many hours of playing it becomes a mental game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I felt as the game got longer and longer our team was at an advantage. I think we have a mentally tough group."
The two teams combined for 105 hits and 81 blocked shots in the game.
"You look around the ice and probably half the players had blood on their jersey by the end of it," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "Some of our guys did, some of their guys did. It's a grinding game. We didn't get the goal, but it's not going to deter us."
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh played a game-high 53:17 and blocked eight shots, while defenseman Dennis Wideman led the Capitals with 40:42 of ice time.
Nearly everyone in the building thought Alex Ovechkin won the game with 5 minutes remaining in the first overtime period, but after stripping Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman of the puck Ovechkin's shot rang off the right post to keep the game alive.
The Caps' best chance to score came about 4:45 into the first overtime period when Matt Hendricks separated McDonagh from the puck with a menacing shoulder, then set up Troy Brouwer all alone in front. Brouwer shot it wide right.
Both teams had chances to win the game with power-play goals near the end of regulation but failed.
The Rangers, who opened the scoring with a power-play goal by Ryan Callahan, were awarded a man-advantage with 5:35 remaining in the third period when Capitals forward Mike Knuble was whistled for interfering with goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers failed to generate much of an attack on Caps goalie Braden Holtby and when Brad Richards went off for tripping Roman Hamrlik with 3:48 remaining, the Caps failed to get a puck past Lundqvist, whose biggest save came on a bullet from Alexander Semin.
After playing tight defensive hockey while splitting the first two games of the series in New York, both teams opened it up in Game 3 with one offensive rush after another.
Lundqvist stopped all 13 shots he faced and Holtby was a perfect 10-for-10 as the two teams took a scoreless tie into the second period.
The offensive flow continued in the second, with each team pinning each other in their zones so often both coaches had to burn a timeout to give the players a breather.
The Rangers got on the board when, with Brooks Laich in the box for hooking Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan converted a Michal Del Zotto rerbound for his third goal of the playoffs.
Del Zotto's shot deflected off Washington defenseman John Carlson and forward Matt Hendricks before falling behind Callahan, who wheeled around and slapped the puck past Holtby 6:41 into the second period.
It was the Rangers' second power play goal of the series and both came from the stick of Callahan.
The Capitals didn't take long to answer. Less than five minutes later John Carlson took a pass from Alexander Semin and rumbled down the left side. Carlson had the puck poked off his stick and swerved to his right before snapping a shot high past Lundqvist's catching glove.
The goal was Carlson's first of the playoffs and breathed life into the home crowd. The fans were moved to the edge of their seats minutes later when the Capitals broke out on a 3-on-1, but Lundqvist came out to stop Laich in close for the biggest stop of the game.
NOTES: Entering Game 3, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan led New York with 16 hits in the series, followed by Derek Stepan (8), Brian Boyle (6) and Brandon Prust (6). Matt Hendricks led the Caps with 8, followed by Jay Beagle (7), Roman Hamrlik (7) and Brooks Laich (6). ... Capitals left wing Jason Chimera entered Wednesday night's game with six career playoff goals and four of them have come against the Rangers. Three of those six goals have been game-winners. ... Dating back to last season, Holtby now has gone 25 consecutive games without losing back-to-back games. ... Entering Wednesday's action, the Rangers ranked first in the NHL with 184 blocked shots in the playoffs. The Capitals ranked second with 178. ... Rangers rookie Chris Kreider is the first Rangers rookie to record two game-winning goals in the playoffs since Mike Allison in the 1981 playoffs. The Rangers have won their last six playoff series in which they held home-ice advantage. ... All-time the Rangers are 31-11 when winning Game 1. ... Lundqvist entered Game 3 ranked third on the Rangers' all-time list with 18 playoff victories but has not led the Rangers past the second round.
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