It was the other side of midnight, the Rangers and Caps had been at it for 114:41 of hockey when Brad Richards centered the puck to Marian Gaborik.
The sniper who hadn’t scored since Game 1 of the Ottawa series snapped his wrists, sent the puck toward netminder Braden Holtby, and then … and then …
“It was like, ‘What happened?’ ” a relieved Gaborik told The Post just outside the locker room.
What happened is that Gaborik had beaten the goaltender at 14:41 of the third overtime — 54:41 of extra time — in the franchise’s longest game in 73 years to give the Rangers a 2-1 victory and 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals that mercifully do not continue until Saturday afternoon.
This was a night that gave way to an early morning — the match ending today at 12:15 a.m. — on which exhaustion turned to exhilaration the moment Gaborik scored.
This was a game in which the Rangers and Caps both invested blood and sweat in Stanley Cup playoff competition at its finest, a match that was thrilling through 60 minutes, and then close to awe-inspiring with these professional athletes reaching within themselves and pushing themselves when there seemed nothing more to give, nowhere else to go.
“Usually when we score I’m so excited that I scream, but I was too tired for that,” Henrik Lundqvist said after a 45-save performance. “I was just, ‘Oh My God, Oh My God, it’s over.’
“I felt like it was never going to end.”