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Rangers trim series deficit to 2-1 against Caps

Tuesday - 5/7/2013, 2:58pm  ET

Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine (4) watches as New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) reacts after scoring the winning goal in their 4-3 victory during the third period of Game 3 of their first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in New York, Monday, May 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers got just the offensive lift they were looking for when they pulled off a big trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

No, not the deal that brought Rick Nash to Broadway, but the key move just before the trade deadline that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus for a package of players that included Derick Brassard.

Nash recorded his first playoff point with the Rangers when he set up Derek Stepan for the winning goal of New York's 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday night -- but the rest of the night belonged to Brassard, Nash's former and current teammate.

Those performances were enough to cut the Rangers' deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven, first-round series that continues with Game 4 on Wednesday night.

New York managed only one goal in the first two games of the series, a pair of losses in Washington. Brassard scored once on Monday and had two assists to breathe life back into the Rangers' previously dormant offense.

"The fact that we came back here in our building helps a lot," said the 25-year-old Brassard, who had a goal and three assists in his Rangers debut April 3 against Pittsburgh. "In Washington we were grabbing our sticks a little too hard. Tonight we just had fun.

"We made plays, we put some pucks on net. That's what we need to do for the rest of the series."

Brassard became the first player with four points in his Rangers regular-season debut since Doug Bentley on Jan. 24, 1954, against Boston.

He did himself one better on Monday. Brassard recorded the most points in a Rangers home playoff debut since Sergei Zubov also had a goal and two assists on April 17, 1994, against the New York Islanders, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I thought he played a complete game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Brassard.

Stepan and Arron Asham both scored tiebreaking goals in the third period for the Rangers, who held on through a late short-handed dilemma to earn their first win of the series.

"It was do-or-die for us," Brassard said. "We competed really hard for 60 minutes. We stuck up for each other, and that's what we need to do."

Stepan gave the Rangers the lead for good with 6:25 remaining when he deftly tipped in a pass in front from Rick Nash. Asham had put New York in front 3-2 at 2:53, but Jay Beagle got the Capitals even again 4:26 later.

"It was an interesting game," Stepan said. "The flows of it were up and down. Early lead, they tie it. We get another one, they tie it. As a team we just stuck together. On the bench everyone had a good feeling."

The Rangers broke out after going without a goal since the first period of Game 1 -- a stretch of 124 minutes, 6 seconds.

That streak was broken by Brian Boyle's tally that made it 1-1.

Until then, New York had been shut down by goalie Braden Holtby, who had suggested he wasn't tested much in Washington's 1-0 overtime victory on Saturday. He had plenty to deal with when the series shifted to Madison Square Garden.

"It's great, we put a few behind him," Boyle said. "We have to keep that same mentality. We have to keep shooting pucks."

Nicklas Backstrom gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 4:06 in, but Brassard put the Rangers in front in the second period with the team's first power-play goal in the series. Asham gave New York a 3-2 lead.

Mike Green, who netted the overtime winner in Game 2, had tied it for the Capitals in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist was sharp in making 28 saves. Holtby countered with a 26-save effort.

"We'll regroup here," Green said. "It's obviously disappointing, but that's why it's seven games. It's unfortunate. We wanted to be up three, but we've got a lot of work to do, and we know that.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy."

Lundqvist had to hold off the surging Capitals in the closing minutes after Brad Richards was whistled for high-sticking Alex Ovechkin. Washington couldn't tie it again, even after pulling Holtby for an extra skater.

"You don't have a lot of chances to play 6-on-4," Ovechkin said. "It's a totally different picture out there. It's a situation where you have to find the shooting lane and shoot it."

Shooting more was a philosophy the Rangers adopted for this game, especially on the power play.

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