Euphoria replaced pure panic at Madison Square Garden in a matter of moments.
And even the most optimistic New York Rangers fan couldn’t have seen this one coming.
Brad Richards scored the unlikeliest of power-play goals with just 7.6 seconds left in regulation, and Marc Staal added another one on the second half of the advantage in overtime to lift New York to a stunning 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night.
Just seconds away from a 3-2 series hole — and facing the prospect of having to win two straight to survive and advance — the Rangers somehow cured their ailing power play and rode it to one of the most thrilling wins in team history.
Staal made sure that Richards’ tying goal wouldn’t go to waste when he scored 1:35 into overtime.
The Rangers overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the first round against Ottawa, just the second time in 18 tries they have pulled off the feat, and were looking at having to do it all over again. Now one win in the next two games will put New York in the conference finals for the first time since 1997.
COYOTES 2, PREDATORS 1
Mike Smith stopped 32 shots and the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Nashville 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.