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Rangers force a Game 7 at MSG with stingy defense and superb goaltending

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers managed to stick together and come away with a win in DC, forcing a deciding Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

This series is going back to Madison Square Garden for a winner-takes-all Game 7.

In what Derek Stepan called “our worst game in the series,” the Rangers managed to steal an ugly Game 6 win, thanks to an offensive outburst and a marvelous performance from the Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lundvist. Four goals and 42 saves was enough for the Rangers to send this series back to the Garden.

The game started out heavily in the Rangers’ favor, scoring 40 seconds into the period and dominating the speed play. It was a very wide open first period, with the quick pace of play an advantage to the Rangers. They were dominating with the cycle game, and wound up with a two goal advantage.

But the Capitals began starting a strong push and answer back to the first period, scoring just 28 seconds into the period. Over the last 40 minutes, the Capitals outshot the Rangers 28-8, and largely dominated play, keeping the Rangers back on their heels. In the final 14:56 of the game, the Capitals attempted 32 shots on net, and the Rangers had none. Henrik Lundqvist really won the game for the Rangers tonight.

This marks the 13th consecutive playoff game decided by one goal for the Rangers, including all 11 games of the playoffs this season. This dates back to Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. They have a knack when it comes to playing close games, and they know how to handle themselves in these types of games. Their experience really pays of during nights like tonight.

With the win, the Rangers are now 13-3 in their last 16 elimination games, including 7-1 since the start of last season.

The man backstopping all 16 of those games is Henrik Lundqvist, Faced with 45 shots on goal, Lundqvist turned aside 42 of them in yet another stunning performance when his team needed him most. His 17 saves in both period one and two are the most saves he’s made in a period for these playoffs. In the his last 16 elimination games, Lundqvist is 13-3 with a 1.42 GAA, a .955 save percentage, and two shutouts. His third period performance kept his team ahead, and they never trailed in the entire game. His first words in his postgame interview – “I’m so tired.”

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Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely superb in Game 6, finishing with 42 saves, and keeping the Rangers ahead throughout the game. Lundqvist came through when the team needed him most. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The game started out just as the Rangers hoped it would, scoring a quick goal thanks to what has become a very strong, consistent second line. It was Chris Kreider, scoring an absolute beauty to give the Rangers a lead that they would never surrender, and a goal that showcased his tremendous skills.

Kevin Klein won a puck battle along the boards, and Jesper Fast backhanded it out of the zone for a streaking Chris Kreider. Matt Niskanen was also going back for the puck, but Kreider’s speed allowed him to get to it first. He then leaned into Niskanen, outmuscling him and transitioning the puck to his backhand before lifting over Holtby for the first goal of the game.

The Rangers kept the pressure up in the period, getting a lot of scoring chances from the third line of Carl Hagelin, Dominic Moore and Kevin Hayes. Dominic Moore had one of the best chances, denied on a spinning backhand in front of the net, and getting stopped by Holtby’s left pad on a slam dunk opportunity.

Chris Kreider had a chance to tap in a puck on the goal line that trickled through Holtby, but he accidentally hit it away from the net as he was well defended. JT Miller has also stopped by the pad of Holtby on a one-timer from 30 feet out. Needless to say, the Rangers had a lot of other chances, but Holtby was strong in the first.

But Henrik Lundqvist was better, and that was the difference, he turned aside all 17 shots he faced, including a sequence of saves six minutes into the period, perhaps his best of the night. Jason Chimera sped down the wing, backhanding a puck at Lundqvist that he kicked to the middle of the ice. Troy Brouwer quickly shot the rebound, but Lundqvist made a sensational sprawling right pad save to keep the Capitals off the board.

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Henrik Lundqvist made this sensational pad save on Troy Brouwer to keep the Capitals off of the board in the first period. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

With 3.4 seconds remaining in the period, Troy Brouwer took a two minute minor for roughing after ripping Hagelin’s helmet off, sending the Rangers to the power play. It looked like the Rangers would head into the second period with an almost full power play, but 3.1 seconds was all that they needed to extend their lead to two goals.

Derek Stepan won the faceoff back to Derick Brassard, who quickly fired a slap shot through the legs of an oncoming defender. The puck hit off of John Carlson’s stick, and he inadvertently kicked it through Holtby’s legs. When trying to find it, Holtby’s pad kicked the puck over to Kreider who tapped in the puck with just .3 seconds remaining, giving him his second goal of the period, and his fifth of these playoffs.

The offensive faceoff domination really helped the Rangers in this period, as well as the fact that they were able to implement their fast, north-south style of play. A phenomenal performace from Lundqvist in this period kept the Capitals off of the board.

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Chris Kreider finished off a perfect set play on the power play in the final second of the first period, scoring his second goal of the period. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

But the last two periods were a totally different story. Alex Ovechkin woke up and started making plays, and subsequently, the rest of the team followed suit. It took just 28 seconds for them to break through for a goal. Joel Ward fired a shot on net that was tipped into Lundqvist’s chest by Evgeny Kuznetsov, and then off the leg of Kevin Klein for Chimera to tap in, and cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1.

The rest of the period was the Henrik Lundqvist show, turning aside the next 17 shots that he would face, including a great pad save on a Jason Chimera redirection, and not allowing the Capitals to score on both of their power play opportunities. The Capitals had 18 shots on net, while the Rangers finished with just four.

The Rangers clearly took what happened to heart, and came out strong, scoring twice in the first five minutes of the period, with goals from Rick Nash and Dan Boyle.

Martin St. Louis deflected the puck on net, but Holtby stopped that. St. Louis stuck with it, and managed to get the puck over to Rick Nash, who was cutting to the front of the net. Nash was able to beat Backstrom, stay patient and make Holtby go down to the ice before sliding past his pad and into the net. It was Nash’s first goal of the series at :54, a huge goal, and his second of the playoffs. Derick Brassard had the secondary assist.

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Rick Nash scored his first goal of the series in the first minute of the third period, showcasing his patience and skill to sneak the puck past Holtby and give the Rangers back their two goal lead. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Dan Boyle added another goal just 3:30 after Nash, extending the Rangers’ lead to 4-1. JT Miller kept the puck in at the blue line, sending it behind the net for James Sheppard, who made a great backhand pass to Dan Boyle for a one timer. Boyle sent a howitzer on net, and it clanked off the crossbar and into the net.

When it seemed like the Rangers would coast to a win, but the Capitals had a tremendous push to try and even the score. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score his fifth goal of the playoffs just a few minutes after Boyle’s goal. Fast and Stepan had a miscommunication, both attempting to clear a puck and catching each other’s sticks. Kuznetsov got the puck in front and rifled a wrister short side for the Caps second goal.

Joel Ward scored less than three minutes later, making it a 4-3 game. Ward got an initial shot on net, which was saved, but he stuck with it, whacking at it two more times until it was in the back of the net. Suddenly, with nine minutes to go, it was just a one goal lead for the Rangers.

Thankfully, with some strong defensive play, and Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Rangers were able to weather the storm and come away with a huge win, and sending the series back to Madison Square Garden.

It was an ugly win, but a win is a win, no matter how it gets done. We saw some good things, like a strong offensive game for the Rangers, a big goal from Rick Nash, and another fantastic performance from King Henrik.

Despite not scoring a goal, the third line may have been the best line in the game. Hagelin, Hayes and Moore combined for 11 shots on goal, and were extremely noticeable in the first period. Dominic Moore could have scored twice if not for the pads of Braden Holtby, and he logged over 19 minutes of ice time. They started a lot of the pressure, and have worked well together in this series.

Rick Nash’s goal was not a meaningless goal at the end of a losing game, it was a big time goal at a crucial time in the game following an abysmal second period. This is exactly what Nash needs to do. Use his size to get to the dirty areas of the ice and try to beat Holtby that way. He has been very, very good in the playoffs, and delivered in a big way today.

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Rick Nash had another strong game, coming through with a goal when the Rangers needed him most. If he can continue that, the Rangers will be in good shape. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

It didn’t seem like Dan Boyle’s goal would be the game winner when he first scored it, but that’s exactly what it wound up being. I thought this was one of his best games of the playoffs. His goal was a cannon shot thanks to the hard work of a rejuvenated fourth line, and he made some very solid defensive plays. Yes, he’s prone to some turnovers and mistakes, but for the most part, he’s a solid defenseman for the Rangers.

I don’t care what anyone says, blocking shots is extremely important and helpful when it comes to winning games. Tonight, the Rangers finished with 34 blocked shots to the Capitals 15. Dan Girardi led the way with eight shot blocks, with Ryan McDonagh (7) and Kevin Klein (5) not far behind. It takes a lot of pressure off of Lundqvist, and it helped them win Game 5 and Game 6.

Now that the Rangers are in the Capitals players’ heads, and have momentum on their side, they must take advantage of it, and come out strong on home ice. This advantage is what they fought for in the regular season, and Game 7 on home ice against a nervous Capitals team will be a challenge. That game is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30.

THREE STARS

1) Henrik Lundqvist – 42 SV, .933 SV%

2) Chris Kreider – 2 G, 3 SOG, 15:05 TOT

3) Dan Boyle – 1 G, 3 SOG, 3 BS, 2 HT

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Posted on May 11, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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