It has been a long time coming for Marc Staal, but as the buzzer sounded last night after his slap shot found the back of the net in overtime, the smile on his face was irrepressible.

Staal had just played an exemplary game as his Rangers beat the Capitals, 3-2, in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, which is now in favor of the Blueshirts, 3-2. The best-of-seven series shifts to Washington for Game 6 tomorrow night.

"We kept talking about it, plays that would open it up for us," Staal said afterward. "We just kept trying to come at them."