WASHINGTON - For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Rangers won a Game 7 on the road, crushing the Washington Capitals, 5-0, Monday night and advanced to a second-round matchup with the Boston Bruins.
The win, after being down in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals three games to two and having lost all three previous games at Verizon Center, came a day after Henrik Lundqvist blanked the Capitals, 1-0, on 27 saves at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Lundqvist turned the trick again, this time with 35 saves for his eighth career playoff shutout.
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"I didn't think it was going to be 5-0 the way this series has gone, but it was our best game of the series," coach John Tortorella said. "Down 2-0 in the series, I just didn't think we were far off; it was still a tough road to climb. Henrik was obviously fantastic through the series."
The Bruins, who came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to win 5-4 in overtime, will host Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Game 2 at 3 p.m. Sunday. It will be the first time the two teams have faced each other in the postseason since 1973.
The Rangers, who were the sixth seed, haven't played the No. 4 seed Bruins in three months. They lost, 3-1, Jan. 19 in Boston, won, 4-3, in overtime Jan. 23 in New York and won, 4-3, in a shootout Feb. 12 in Boston.
After Lundqvist stopped 13 shots in the first period, weathering a surge by the Capitals, Arron Asham scored his second of the playoffs with a shot from the right circle that zipped over Braden Holtby's glove at 13:19.
Asham took a high-sticking penalty at 18:42 of the first, but the Rangers killed it and cracked the game open early in the second, striking twice in 2:10. Taylor Pyatt, scored his first of the playoffs, slamming in the rebound of a point shot by Steve Eminger at 3:24. Then Michael Del Zotto's shot from the left circle hit a sliding defender's skate and slid between a kneeling Holtby's pads at 5:34.
By the end of the second, Lundqvist had stopped 26 shots and the Capitals, who were trying to pound the Rangers into submission, were frustrated.
"You just want to get it done so badly, you've just got to control your emotions," said Lundqvist, who allowed 12 goals in the seven games, including two overtimes. "I'm an emotional guy when I play and I try to just stay calm, good or bad. They had a few chances, but when we scored at the end of the second, it was a great feeling. At the same time, if a team like this scores a goal, things can change. So it felt really good to be 3-0 going into the third. And we had a great start to the third."
If there was any chance that the Capitals could pull off a comeback, Ryan Callahan quashed that just 13 seconds in. The Rangers captain stole the puck from John Erskine, stormed down the right side and beat Holtby for a 4-0 lead. Mats Zuccarello put the icing on the cake, decoying Holtby backhand to forehand, at 6:39.
Derick Brassard, with two assists, led the team in scoring with nine points in the series.
For the Capitals, it was a bitter end, especially for Alex Ovechkin, who dished out 13 hits, but went six straight games without a goal.
"When the home team wants to get physical, we were really disciplined," said Ryan McDonagh, who had a gash on his right cheek and above his eye courtesy of an Ovechkin hit. "We didn't retaliate to try to keep them off the power play, we found out early on they could strike at will."