Rangers beat Flyers in Game 7 to advance to series against Penguins
Fueled by goals from Dan Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot in the second period last night, the Rangers defeated the Flyers, 2-1, and eliminated them from the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in the deciding Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
For Henrik Lundqvist, it was a bit of redemption.
In Philadelphia on Tuesday, Lundqvist had been pulled after the second period, having allowed four goals on 23 shots as the Flyers won 5-2 to square this Stanley Cup series at three games each.
"Right away, I thought about this game, what was coming," Lundqvist said after he made 26 saves to help the Rangers eliminate the Flyers and move on to the second round of the playoffs against the Penguins in Pittsburgh starting tomorrow night.
On the train back from Philadelphia, Lundqvist recalled, "I was so disappointed, but at the same time, I was mad. You want to go out there today and play as good as you can. To play a Game 7 at home, that was the inspiration."
Inspired play in Game 7s is nothing new for Lundqvist, who is now 4-1 in those games with a 1.00 GAA and a .963 save percentage.
"We all knew that at some point they were going to have a push, and he would have to make the saves we needed," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We had a couple breakdowns in front of our net and he made some real big saves."
Lundqvist was really tested in the third, when Jason Akeson cut a 2-0 lead in half, nabbing a rebound of his blocked shot and beating Lundqvist far side at 4:32. He had to make 11 saves under pressure in the period.
At the other end, Steve Mason was impressive, making 31 stops, including 16 in the second period, when Carcillo and Pouliot scored on cross-ice passes to the left post for shots on which he had little chance.
"I thought it could have been 4 or 5 to nothing, but Mason made some great saves for them to keep it 2-0," said Marc Staal. "It was good that we did the opposite [of Tuesday, when they allowed three Flyers goals in the second]. We grabbed the momentum and took advantage of it. Philly's a very good team, they gave us all we could handle."
Rick Nash, who didn't score in the series, was more engaged and active from the start than in the previous games, and his low shot from the left circle on the first shift hit the post.
Both Rangers goals Wednesday night came after penalty-kills. Just 39 seconds into the second, the Rangers were caught with too many men on the ice, but the Flyers, who were 6 for 19 on the power play, couldn't convert.
Mats Zuccarello backhanded a pass through the slot to Carcillo, waiting near the left post, unguarded by Braydon Coburn, at 3:06. For Carcillo, who did not play in Games 5 or 6, it was his second goal in three games. Vigneault chose Carcillo's experience over youngster J.T. Miller.
Pouliot was sticked in the back by Kimmo Timonen and fell over Mason at 8:37 of the second, but was called for goaltender interference. Anton Stralman and Martin St. Louis blocked shots as the penalty expired, and at 11:46, Pouliot fired in Derick Brassard's cross-ice pass.
Playing the Penguins will be another major challenge. The Rangers are 0-4 against them in the playoffs. Granted, that goes back to the days of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, but the current Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, put up 109 points and were 28-9-4 at CONSOL Energy Center.
"They have a lot of high-end talent," Brad Richards said. "It's going to be a battle. We know what to expect."