NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers celebrates with his teammates after scoring the winning goal in overtime against Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals as Matt Hendricks #26 of the Washington Capitals slides to the ice after Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 7, 2012 in New York City. The New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime 2-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers' never-say-die attitude showed through in their dramatic Game 5 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals. They were 7.6 seconds away from facing elimination at Washington. Instead, the Blueshirts capitalized on a four-minute power play, Brad Richards sent it to overtime and Marc Staal won it 1:35 into the extra frame.
It's the type of finish that makes hockey a beautiful game. New York played one of its best games of the series, dictated the pace, held onto more pucks, yet still found itself down 2-1 in the waning seconds ... then found itself on the right side of what could be a back-breaking 3-2 loss for the Capitals.
The Rangers have a chance to advance to their first Eastern Conference finals since the 1996-97 season if they can defeat the Capitals on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) on the road in Game 6. And they'd get the chance to host the series against their local rivals, the New Jersey Devils, who defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
New York has won once and lost one in the nation's capital in these playoffs, but it has to be riding high, even in Verizon Center, a place that can be tough to play in, after such a monumental victory. If the Rangers can replicate the offensive fluidity and defensive structure they showed in Game 5 -- one in which they outshot the Capitals 38-18 -- they shouldn't have to wait until the final seconds and then use overtime to come out on top.
Possibly the most admirable trait of this team is that it doesn't give up and will continue to work until the final whistle blows, no matter the score. It's that "x-factor" that makes New York a pesky team, and one that you can't count out in any game. It's a group that has played tight-checking, close games -- also known as playoff hockey -- all season long, so its conditioned for these types of clashes.
The key of this game will be matching the Caps' desperation level -- they're playing for their season, and the Rangers need to show a killer instinct to close out the series.