NEW YORK | The chants were echoing off the walls of Madison Square Garden as Rangers fans serenaded the Capitals and coach Bruce Boudreau with "Can you hear us?" Everyone could hear it, and the Rangers' statement was loud and clear, too, as they had a three-goal lead to spark the crowd.
But all Boudreau wanted to do was calm his team down. It's hard to anticipating falling into that deep a hole, in that kind of atmosphere with the series teetering in the balance.
Yet the Caps didn't stop skating and chipped away — one goal at a time — en route to a third-period comeback and eventually a 4-3 double overtime victory that gives them a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
"In between periods we just never give up," Boudreau said. "And then we were able to relay history — San Jose came back last night (at Los Angeles) and we talked about the Rangers coming back against Boston, and then I said, 'Hell even we came back here last year from four goals down.' You get one and you never know. We got both goals really quickly. I thought we believed we were in it."
If the Caps wind up making a long run in these Stanley Cup playoffs, the moment of the Caps standing there shell-shocked as fans at the Garden ratcheted up the decibel level may stand as an even bigger moment than Jason Chimera tapping the puck past Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winner 12:36 into the second extra session.
"We've turned around before. We just got to believe in ourselves and play our own game, which I think we started to do in the third period, and that's when we started to get goals," said center Marcus Johansson, who scored two of them. "We got momentum in the game, and that's how we have to play for three periods."
For as poorly as the Caps played in the second period — allowing the Rangers to feed off the crowd and take advantage of defensive lapses — they were that much better in the third and then in both overtimes. It took a little conversation at the second intermission with Boudreau and other team leaders speaking up to turn the tide.
"We had a little team meeting — the leaders, they were talking to us and Ovi — and we had to step up," goaltender Michal Neuvirth said. "I think we weren't very sharp in the second period, but we knew we had done it so many times in the season and we came back, and we prove it again tonight."
They proved it. Alexander Semin got that all-important first goal by picking off a clearing pass from Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and tucking in his rebound at the right post. Johansson's first goal came 57 seconds later, and he tied it with 7:53 left.
Finally, in the second overtime, Chimera tapped a loose puck in for another special moment.
"Any time you can score an OT winner or a game-winner in the playoffs there is no better feeling," he said. "It felt like forever after it hit my chest and down to my stick. It was nice. It was a good effort in the third period, and what a comeback."
Now it's a matter of the Caps harnessing the seemingly endless momentum they picked up from this comeback and using it to finish off the Rangers — whether that happens in Saturday's Game 5 back at Verizon Center or beyond. But as Boudreau said, "If we think we have this won by any stretch of the imagination, we're in deep trouble."
The Caps didn't even want to be talking about being in command — because even after all this work there's more to be done.
"Never in command. Still, we got to win one more game and it's tight every game. We're far from done here," Johansson said. "It's 60 or more minutes left to go where we have to play really good, so it's going to be tough."
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