Dubinsky helps Rangers win by whisker

NEW YORK -- Not only did left winger Brandon Dubinsky bring back the 1970s-style mustache, he also brought the New York Rangers back into contention in its first-round playoff series.

Dubinsky -- currently sporting a throwback 'stache that would make former Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Larry Robinson proud -- scored the game-winning goal with 1:39 remaining in the third period on Sunday afternoon, lifting the eight-seeded Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the top-seeded Washington Capitals in Game 3. The Rangers now trail the Capitals two games to one in their best-of-seven series.

"The 'stache stays," said Dunbinsky, who also added an assist and was credited with a game-high seven hits, while leading all skaters with 25:45 of ice time and a plus-two plus/minus rating. "It took me a while to grow this thing. Hopefully we keep winning so I won't have to shave it off."

The Rangers will keep winning if they keep getting lucky bounces like the one Dubinsky got to save his team from being on the brink of elimination.

After winning a puck battle along the boards, Dubinsky skated out in front to try to jam it home. Instead, the puck deflected off defenseman Karl Alzner's shoulder and ricocheted off winger Alex Ovechkin's stick before somehow landing in the back of the net, behind goaltender Michal Neurvirth, sending the soldout crowd of 18,200 into a frenzy.

"I did see it go over [Neurvirth]," Dubinsky said. "I didn't see how close it was. I was ready to start jamming. Then I saw the ref point and I knew it was in. It was a great bounce and we were due for one of those."

Dubinsky, who led the team in goals (24), assists (30) and points (54) during the regular season, hadn't scored since April 4. So the 24-year-old couldn't have picked a better time to come out of his scoring slump.

"Dubi is a very important guy for us," head coach John Tortorella said. "Not just to score a goal, but he did a lot of dirty stuff, too. He made a lot of big plays defensively and also forechecking. Hopefully that will continue."

It needs to. It has to. The Rangers had scored just one goal in their first two games against the Capitals. And they were going to have to figure it out internally, since injured right winger Ryan Callahan isn't coming back anytime soon.

Center Erik Christensen got them started 5:30 into the second period, ripping a sharp-angle shot from the bottom of the right circle that somehow snuck through, ending a 1-for-34 power play drought. Veteran Vinny Prospal followed, burying a loose rebound off a point shot from defenseman Marc Staal with 11:59 left in the third, and Dubinsky's fluke 4-on-4 tally with time winding down in regulation proved to be the difference. It was his second-career postseason game-winner.

"We don't pay attention to the talk about goals," Dubinsky said. "We knew we needed to get more shots and more traffic."

Tortorella would be the first one to admit that the Rangers don't possess the offensive firepower of the Capitals. The Rangers don't have anyone as potent as Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom or Alexander Semin on their roster.

But they do have guys who are willing to cycle, forecheck and score inside the blue paint. That's how they've gotten to this point. And that's how they're going to have to continue to play if they want to be this season's NHL Cinderella story and send the Capitals to the golf course early.

They know it, too. They have since training camp.

"That's the way our team's gonna win games," Dubinsky said. "Play hard."

The series will reconvene Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden for Game 4. Tension will be high. It's going to be a physical, tight-checking battle. The Rangers intend to be up to the challenge.

"My gut had had that feeling right from the get-go in the year," Tortorella said. "We have gone through a lot of injuries throughout the year where we end up finding ourselves. No one is down. They keep going about their business. We have to be better in Game 4 because Washington is going to be better. It doesn't surprise me anymore. We are going to keep moving on."

Although Tortorella wouldn't admit it, his team came into Game 3 with its back against the wall. But after Dubinsky scored in the flukiest of fashions with 99 seconds remaining on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers are right in the thick of it.

Hope is still alive.

So is Dubinksy's 1970s-style mustache.

"I needed a fresh start," Dubinsky said. "Hopefully it'll catch on and the boys will start growing some."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.