By Larry Fine
NEW YORK, May 13 (Reuters) - The New York Rangers capped an historic comeback with a 2-1, Game Seven overtime win over the Washington Capitals to reach the NHL Eastern Conference finals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
Derek Stepan blasted home a rebound off a blistering Dan Girardi shot at Caps goalie Braden Holtby with 8:36 left in overtime to lift the Rangers to a 4-3 series triumph and set off wild celebrations on the Madison Square Garden ice.
It was a fitting end to a tight series in which every game was decided by a margin of one goal.
The Rangers overcame a 3-1 series deficit to take their place in the Stanley Cup semi-finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, becoming the only NHL team ever to erase 3-1 playoff deficits in successive seasons.
Last year, New York overtook the Pittsburgh Penguins in a decisive Game Seven in the second round on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The win gave goalie Henrik Lundqvist the sixth Game Seven victory of his career in succession, tying Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy for most Game Seven victories in the NHL.
Washington scored in the first period on a goal by Alex Ovechkin, while Kevin Hayes supplied the equalizer for New York in the second period to make it 1-1.
Swede Lundqvist stopped 35 of 36 shots to notch the victory, withstanding a barrage of chances by the Caps in the first five minutes of the sudden-death period.
Holtby turned away 37 shots on goal, before failing to block the series-winner from Stepan. (Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)