New York, NY – The top-seeded New York Rangers narrowly avoided the Canucks' fate on Thursday night.
Thanks to 26 saves from Henrik Lundqvist, the Blueshirts took a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
New York won the last two in the set after a Game 5 loss had the team facing elimination. The Western Conference playoffs had already seen its top seed, Vancouver, lose in the first round to the Kings, but New York advanced past the opening round for the first time since 2008.
"It was a hard series, against a very good team," said New York head coach John Tortorella. "I thought both teams went toe to toe in all areas of the game. Sometimes the first round is the hardest round."
Marc Staal and Dan Girardi each had a goal for the Rangers, who will next face Washington, which won its Game 7 on Wednesday against Boston, in the conference semifinals, which will begin on Saturday afternoon in New York.
Daniel Alfredsson scored the lone goal of the game for the Senators, who were looking to win a playoff series for the first time since advancing to the Cup Finals in 2007. Craig Anderson again had a fantastic game, but his 27 saves were not enough to grab the win.
"We're not happy with the result, but we thought we played real good and that it was a real good series," said Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean. "We're real excited about our team and the steps we took this season, the building blocks we have laid here will show next season."
The Rangers got on the board at the 4:46 mark of the second thanks to an Ottawa turnover. Derek Stepan grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and pushed it to Ryan Callahan, who took it down to the right circle on a short 2-on-1 rush. He fed it between the legs of the defender to the other side and Staal one-timed it home for his first of the playoffs.
It was 2-0 just over four minutes later on Girardi's first of the playoffs. Brandon Prust had the puck at the outside right circle and sent a short pass over to the dot, where Brandon Dubinsky caught up to it. He immediately swept it to the slot where Girardi was all alone for the one-timer.
Ottawa found the back of the net on the power play exactly 2 1/2 minutes after Girardi's goal. With Michael Del Zotto in the box for cross checking, Chris Phillips sent a pass from the high slot to the top of the left circle where Alfredsson one-timed it in for his second of the series.
Lundqvist, though, shut the door from that point on.
He finished the second period having stopped 17 shots through the first 40 minutes and continued his strong play in the final frame.
During a sequence in the New York zone with under six minutes to play, Ottawa was dominating the action and got several shots off, but Lundqvist stood tall.
The first came off a Milan Michalek one-timer from the right circle that Lundqvist stopped. New York failed to clear and Filip Kuba got off a shot that the goalie turned aside.
That proved to be Ottawa's last gasp as the team got Anderson pulled in the final minute, but Sergei Gonchar took a tripping call when he hauled down Carl Hagelin with 37 seconds to play and New York gave the home crowd the win.
"There was a little more edge to it and it was a great feeling being out there," said Lundqvist. "You try not to think about the importance of the game and put too much pressure on yourself. I tried to just go out there and see it as Game 89 instead of Game 7."
Anderson made a stop on a Marian Gaborik one-timer about three minutes into the first period while Lundqvist stopped a Phillips shot on an Ottawa power play later in the first to keep the opening 20 minutes scoreless.
New York improved to 4-0 all-time in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden. The last was in 1994 against Vancouver for the Stanley Cup trophy...New York improved to 4-5 all-time in Game 7s while Ottawa fell to 0-5...Ottawa was 1- for-2 on the power play while New York was 0-for-3.