NEW YORK -- They've done it again. On Wednesday night, the New York Rangers became the only team in NHL history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit in consecutive postseasons, beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in overtime in a thriller of a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers head to their second straight Eastern Conference finals, where they will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning.
How it happened: Derek Stepan snapped a 1-1 tie with 8 minutes, 36 seconds left in the first overtime period, beating Braden Holtby and punching the Rangers' ticket to the next round.
Earlier in the game, Alex Ovechkin, who guaranteed a Game 7 victory Sunday, did his best to back it up, stifling the MSG crowd with his snipe in the first period that gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead. But the Blueshirts were revived when rookie Kevin Hayes tallied his second goal of the postseason, knotting the game at 1-1 with a power-play goal in the middle frame. And no one was surprised that this one needed extra time considering every single game in this series was decided by just a single goal.
What it means: The Rangers proved again that they are a resilient bunch, as they defied the odds and downed a Capitals team that jumped out to a 3-1 series lead after the first four games. A deep run last spring may have served this group well, as the Blueshirts held on in even the most harried of moments in this series against a nasty, physical Capitals team. The Rangers will now faces a Lightning team that is built similarly, on speed and skill, and has a few familiar faces to boot. Ex-Rangers Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman will face their former team in the Eastern Conference finals.
Player of the game: Henrik Lundqvist -- it started with a jaw-dropping stop to deny Jay Beagle just 4:05 into play, and continued throughout the game as "The King" delivered another pristine performance when his team needed it most. Lundqvist has now won six straight Game 7's, a league record. Perhaps more impressive is that he has given up just one goal or fewer in all six of those games.
Stat of the game: The Rangers have never lost a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Counting Wednesday’s victory against the Capitals, New York has recorded seven straight Game 7 wins at home, a record dating back to 1992.
Up next: Rangers vs. Lightning, Game 1 -- Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.