Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/3/12

The 2011-12 New York Rangers have given us a number of memories this season that will never be forgotten. You can add tonight's triple overtime victory to that list, and maybe boost it right up to number one. The sacrifice, effort, blood, sweat and tears that went into tonight's victory were like something out of a Steven Spielberg masterpiece film, only this was real life. Six periods of hockey were all real. Lundqvist's 45 saves were all real. Brian Boyle blocking a shot with his face was real. Dan Girardi returning to the game with stitches was real. Marian Gaborik's historic game-winner was real. This is a night that will stand out in the history of this franchise forever. 

As they say, "History Will Be Made."

Henrik Lundqvist established himself as an early story in this game, stopping a 2-on-1 odd-man rush just 3:14 in and fighting off all five shots the Capitals threw his way in the opening five minutes, as opposed to the Rangers' one. A majority of the opening frame was Washington-dominated, which wasn't necessarily surprising in their first game at the Verizon Center of the series, but Lundqvist's performance in net sure was. He was the one and only reason the Blueshirts managed to survive the 20-minute long surge from the Caps, which consisted of a critical penalty-kill by New York with under four minutes left in the period. 

The Rangers had a few scoring chances of their own coming off the rush, though, but Caps goalie Braden Holtby was equal to the task, matching the play of Lundqvist down the other end. The back-and-forth chances for both sides were reflective of how wide open this tilt was in probably the most action packed period of the series so far. 

The rapid pace carried over into the second stanza, so the netminders would again be called upon for a plethora of important stops. While most of those were made, each team did strike in the middle period, and it was the Rangers who were on the board first with a powerplay tally at 6:41. The penalty was drawn by Marian Gaborik on the prior shift when he was hauled down by Brooks Laich while attempting a strong move into the slot area with the puck.

It was again Gaborik who led the play resulting in the goal, carrying in and dropping off to a trailing Del Zotto. Del Zotto wound up a slap shot that would tick off the skate of John Carlson and then off the thigh of a kneeling Matt Hendricks, before it eventually would end up at the stick of Ryan Callahan at the top of the crease. Captain Callahan easily banged home his first of the series with Holtby leaving half the net open after being thrown off by the double deflection.

More importantly, the popular goat in this series in Marian Gaborik not only drew the penalty, but picked up the secondary assist to become the team's second-highest scorer in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Gabby, though, the applause was short-lived because he was partially at fault not long after when the Capitals brought the game to a tie before the end of the second. 

John Carlson entered the zone 1-on-3, yet still easily beat Gaborik, fought off Marc Staal's clearing attempt and simply glided past a motionless Anton Stralman all before rifling a perfect wrist shot top corner on Lundqvist. It goes without saying that a single forward coming in on three defenders should not be allowed to walk in and get a shot off from prime scoring position like that. It's the inexcusable lack of execution on plays like this that make coach Tortorella cringe on the bench, and in the playoffs, more often than not, you'll find yourself paying a price for such foolish errors. 

The price paid, at the end of three periods, was having to decide this game in overtime rather than earning a 1-0 victory, as neither team mustered up another goal in the third. There were scoring chances galore in that final period for both the Rangers and Caps, but the dominance by the goaltenders between the pipes continued. Lundqvist led a tremendous penalty-kill stemming from a Brad Richards tripping minor late in regulation, and then it was Holtby making a huge stop on a Derek Stepan shot through traffic with exactly 10 seconds left on the clock. 

So, to the dreaded overtime period we would go. 

What would be the first overtime period of the game was no short of dramatic by any means. The first real chance came early for the Capitals, when a thunderous blow by Matt Hendricks planted Ryan McDonagh into the ice to freed up open space for Troy Brouwer. The only problem was that Brouwer, upon receiving the pass all alone in the slot, managed to fire wide of the net to miss out on an almost sure game-winner with Lundqvist sprawling. 

And if that didn't stop your heart, later in the period a turnover by Stralman landed right on the stick of Alex Ovechkin, who beat Lundqvist with a shot that struck iron and stayed out. So essentially by then the Caps had blown two glorious opportunities to go up, 2-1, in the series. 

Down the other end, a flurry started by Ryan Callahan throwing the puck on net from a sharp angle gave Derek Stepan two rebound whacks at the puck, but Holtby had answers for both of them. A similar occurrence came later in the period, when Chris Kreider put on the jets to beat out an icing call and create a chance out front for Callahan. Again, though, Holtby stood strong for Washington. 

The Rangers also went on the powerplay in the final 2:40, only to be rejected by the stunning kill by the Capitals. Then, one last shot block by the chin of Brian Boyle in the defensive zone would send this one to a double overtime period. 

That double overtime period, too, would go by without a goal though. The best chance would actualy come from Mike Rupp off a Gaborik centering feed. Rupp had all day to roof a shot on a down and out Holtby, but his own teammate Boyle would inadvertently block the shot while trying to create havoc in front. 

That meant triple overtime for the first time since 1971 for the Rangers. 

It almost took a fourth. Almost. But finally, with 5:19 remaining in the third overtime, the Rangers found the game-winner. The play began in the neutral zone with Gaborik chipping the puck ahead to Richards. Richie carried in and shot, and that shot was fought off by Holtby. Dan Girardi then stepped up along the boards to push the puck back to Richards behind the net, where Brad quickly threw it into the slot to Marian Gaborik planted in front. Gaborik wasted no time one-timing that pass to the back of the net, and just like that, nearly five hours of hockey ended with the Rangers taking a 2-1 series lead on the Capitals. 

Since it's 12:30 a.m and this postgame is turning into a novel, I'm just going to bullet point some key factors to wrap this up:

- Henrik Lundqvist made 45 saves on the night, and plenty of those came at key points in the overtime(s). I counted at least four marvelous glove snags by Hank in sudden death, which just speaks to his focus. He maintained his confidence and composure throughout all six periods, and my God did he come up big when the team needed him to. 

- Ryan Callahan defines warrior. To be honest, no words do his effort and sacrifice tonight justice. Between the blocked shots and relentless play over the course of the night/morning, Captain Cally was unbelievable and clearly was not ready to accept defeat at any point. He may have wanted this more than anyone. 

- Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, also, define warrior. Girardi logged 44:26 and McDonagh 53:21, despite absorbing numerous battle scars in the game. Girardi was skating around with stitches on his forehead for goodness sake, and McDonagh led both teams in ice time even after that huge hit from Hendricks in the first overtime period. They both blocked shots, they did an excellent job on the top line of Johansson, Backstrom and Ovechkin, and they contributed offensively as well. Marc Staal, too, deserves a shoutout for a great outing as well. The conditioning, physical and mental, of these guys is out of this world. 

- I was very impressed with the rookies; Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Their legs were moving even in the sixth period there, but it was their confidence that was astounding. Overtime, let alone three, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a gut-wrenching, nerve-racking experience, but they were aggressive, they didn't shy away from using the body - just incredible. What's even more insane are the experiences that these two are going through in just their first year. 

- Brad Richards showed us tonight why he was signed in New York. This guy is a veteran without a doubt, and we actually saw coach Tortorella reunite him with an old buddy in Ruslan Fedotenko from the 2004 Stanley Cup team in OT. Richie was all over the place the entire night, registering six shots in nearly 40 minutes of ice time. And then, of course, there was the game-winning assist. 

- Marian Gaborik. Everyone and their mother trashed him after Game 2, I wrote an article yesterday in his defense, many of you agreed, and now look: he scores the biggest goal of his entire career and one that none of us will ever forget. Gaborik grew hungrier and hungrier as the game went on, he led the team with seven shots on goal, and even hit a post in the third OT before eventually scoring the winner. Congratulations, he earned it and there couldn't have been a more perfect ending than him scoring the winner. This goal will be one that will be showed on video intros at Madison Square Garden for decades. 

One last thought: Thank God both the team and the fans have two days to rest after this thriller. It's needed.

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