It took Derek Stepan and an overtime goal in Game Seven on Wednesday night, but the New York Rangers put away the Washington Capitals and are going to the Eastern Conference Final. The final score was 2-1.
Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring for the Capitals in the first period, but New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist closed the door after that. The Great Eight had “guaranteed” a win in Game Seven and seemed to be doing all he could to make it happen.
“Great battle,” Ovechkin said after the game. “One shot, one moment. I think we played great in OT, we had chances. But one moment can end the series and end the game. It’s over. I wish them luck.”
Washington finished with 36 shots on goal, including 15 in the first period, but it was not to be. In 71 minutes of action, King Henrik was as good as he needed to be to pull out the win. He’d won five straight Game Sevens going into Wednesday. Now he can make that six.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was not to be outdone. He actually faced more shots, with the Rangers uncorking 39 shots on target. Kevin Hayes scored on a New York power play in the middle frame, but the Washington netminder was where he needed to be for the most part.
“Obviously we had an opportunity to close it out, but all the games were close,” said Holtby. “It could have been 3-1 the other way at that time and us coming back. We fought hard and it was a great series, one that could have easily gone our way, but it just didn’t.”
This marks the second straight season the Rangers have been able to advance to the Eastern Conference Final. They’ve handled the Washington Capitals an awful lot in the post-season and this series marked the fourth time in five outings since 2009 that things needed a Game Seven. The Rangers have taken victories over the last few seasons and can now add another to the trophy case.
What’s more, the Rangers can accomplish the feat coming from behind. They were down 3-1 in the series, just like last year when they were down 3-1 against the Penguins, and they streaked back to manage the win.
This resolve speaks to the team effort of New York and the astonishing play of Lundqvist, who is 7-0 in Game Sevens at MSG. He has won 10 straight home games when facing elimination, which accounts for the longest streak of its kind in the National Hockey League.
The Capitals did what they could, but in the end it almost seemed like history had it in for them. The Rangers pulled off another balanced team win and survived some tight spots. They’ll have to do it again against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who’ll be primed and ready for the Eastern Conference Final.
Game One of that series goes Saturday afternoon from Madison Square Garden.