It has been said over and over, but it bears repeating. You play an 82 game regular season for home ice advantage in Game 7. The New York Rangers are prime examples of that. The Rangers used a wild atmosphere at Madison Square Garden to their advantage, as they slipped by the Washington Capitals 2-1 to win the Eastern Conference Semi-Final series 4-3.
The Rangers got the crowd into the game early on. 92 seconds to be exact. Brad Richards fired home a slap shot over the glove of Braden Holtby to give the Broadway Blueshirts an early lead. The Rangers stayed the course of their game plan. No silly penalties, and smart tight checking hockey.
The second period saw the Capitals put on heavy pressure in the Rangers end. But Henrik Lundqvist was simply superb tonight, making 11 saves in the period, including a terrific toe save on Troy Brouwer in tight. The Caps were clearly frustrated with Lundqvist, as they were aiming high glove side on the Rangers keeper. More often than not however, the Capitals either missed the net completely, or flubbed the shot, in which the Rangers defence were able to clear the puck out of harm’s way.
The third period was dominated by the Rangers, and they were finally rewarded with a crucial second goal midway through the period as Michael Del Zotto joined the attack, took a pass from Marion Gaborik, and fired a shot that beat Holtby stick side to give the Rangers a two goal lead. The Caps, to their credit, refused to die as Roman Hamrlik answered 38 seconds later with his first of the playoffs.
The Rangers buckled down after that, as they tightened the screws on the Capitals attack, and defeated the Caps at their own game, by utilizing the trap, and deflating the Capitals chances. Washington only had 4 shots in the third period, which is a testament to how disciplined the Rangers played when the game was on the line.
The Rangers have now survived two Game sevens, and now improve to 5-0 at home in Game 7. Next up for Broadway, is their crosstown rivals the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final. Game one is slated for Monday night. For the Capitals, another season full of promise, ends in disappointment. Many questions will be asked in the DC area, one of which will be: Will Dale Hunter be behind the bench for Washington next season? Only he knows.
1. Henrik Lundqvist
2. Brad Richards
3. Braden Holtby