Rangers Defeat Capitals in OT; Face Lightning in Conference Finals

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row via a dramatic overtime Game 7 against the Washington Capitals. And for the second year in a row they came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin promised after Game 6 the Capitals would win Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. The promise immediately brought to mind the same promise Rangers captain Mark Messier made in 1994. Breitbart Sports mentioned that if the promise were to come true then Ovechkin needed to step up. Messier did by scoring a hat trick in the third period of Game 6.

The minute he stepped onto the ice in the first period he punished every Rangers player he came into contact with. He knew he had to deliver. He did at 12:53 in the first. The red light turned on and the crowd turned off. Only Ovechkin could quiet Madison Square Garden (MSG). After all, the fans were screaming “Ovi Sucks! Ovi Sucks!” a few seconds before. It was a gorgeous goal.

While shorthanded, Rick Nash grabbed the puck and managed a breakaway. What a way to bring life back into MSG! But Braden Holtby flat out denied him. Pure devastation on his face.

Completely deflated the Rangers skated into the locker room for intermission. It really looked like Ovechkin was going to keep his promise.

Not this time! The Rangers did a complete 180 in the second period. They were composed and played the puck well. Kevin Hayes scored a power-play goal six minutes into the second period, which completely reenergized MSG. The fans were back in it and so were the Rangers.

These Rangers were not going away and the first period Capitals also returned in the third. Talk about a nail-biter. The puck mainly stayed away from both goalies due to excellent defense on both sides. No penalties in the third period. Just amazing playoff hockey. But no one scored, which meant only one thing.

Game 7 Overtime.

The stress. The pressure. Viewers could feel it through the television.

The Capitals wanted it more at the beginning of overtime. The Rangers could not clear the puck. Thankfully for them goalie Henrik Lundqvist was sharp and precise because he faced at least six shots before Capitals goalie Braden Holtby faced one. Each time the Rangers cleared the puck the refs called them for icing. They could not catch a break and had to lean on Lundqvist.

Halfway through the period the Rangers reorganized and realized they had to actually clear the puck with their players in the zone in order to score. They managed to frustrate the Capitals, who iced the puck, which brought the faceoff back into their zone. The Rangers won the faceoff and Dan Giradi attempted a shot against Holtby, which deflected right to Derek Stepan. Without any hesitation Stepan shot the puck passed Holtby.

MSG exploded.

What a game. Even though Ovechkin did not keep his promise, he showed up for the game. It is not his fault no one else could produce. He is captain for a reason and he showed it tonight. He fought extremely hard to push his team into the conference finals.

Is there anything better than the handshake at the end of a playoff series?

The Final Four is set. The Tampa Bay Lightning will faceoff against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden in the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on NBC. The Chicago Blackhawks will travel to Anaheim to play the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday on NBC.


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