In the late game over in the Western Conference, the St Louis Blues maintained the theme of narrow wins for road teams with a 4-3 triumph in San Jose.
Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist came out on top in a goaltending duel with Craig Anderson in the Canadian capital, stopping 39 shots as the Rangers edged the Ottawa Senators 1-0 to move 2-1 ahead in their best-of-seven series.
In the U.S. capital, Zdeno Chara's slap shot whizzed past netminder Braden Holtby with less than two minutes remaining to give the Stanley Cup champion Bruins a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals and a 2-1 lead in their series.
Back on home ice and roused by a raucous sellout crowd, the Senators outshot the Rangers 39-22 but Lundqvist was brilliant, particularly in the final minutes when denying Kyle Turris from close range, as he clinched a fourth career playoff shutout.
“They're good, they keep coming, they have a lot of skill up front so you have to work hard," Lundqvist said.
“There were a lot of people in front of me all night, not only their guys but our guys clearing the lane, and I think they did a pretty good job."
The game was a physical one but there were plenty of quality scoring chances at both ends of the rink before the decisive strike arrived late on and in fortuitous fashion.
With less than eight minutes remaining in the third period, the puck bounced off the bottom of the Ottawa goal directly onto the stick of Brian Boyle, who quickly flipped a backhand into the open net The Senators were missing captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was elbowed in the head by Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin in Game Two and is suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
Hagelin also missed the contest, serving the first of a three-game ban for the illegal hit.
“It was a great playoff game up and down the rink, the only disappointing thing is they got one and we got none," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said.
In Washington, Brian Rolston poked in a rebound past Holtby at the start of the final period to break a 2-2 tie and give the Bruins their first lead of the night in front of a stunned red-clad, capacity crowd.
However, Washington's Brooks Laich countered with a breakaway goal with six minutes left, the veteran center taking full advantage when Boston goalie Tim Thomas flopped to the ice too early.
With overtime looming, Chara, owner of the hardest shot on record in the NHL's skills competition, unleashed a long-range blast that deflected off the stick of Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik and past a helpless Holtby.
The Senators will host the Rangers in Game Four on Wednesday, while the Capitals take on Bruins on Thursday at the Verizon Center.
In San Jose, the Blues's 4-3 road triumph over the Sharks also gave them a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
The second-seeded Blues, who were upset at home in the opener but have rallied to win consecutive contests, grabbed a 4-1 advantage early in the third before surviving a late scare.
Sharks attackers Colin White and Logan Couture scored in the final few minutes of the game but the home team were unable to force an equaliser.
St Louis goaltender Brian Elliott made 26 saves in place of Jaroslav Halak, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game Two, and the Blues head into Thursday's Game Four with their first series lead.