By the skin of their teeth, the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 in Saturday night’s Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
Brad Richards scored the opening goal 1:32 into the game, but the Capitals never let up the pressure, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to bail out the Rangers and outplay Washington counterpart Braden Holtby.
With both teams moving the puck well and keeping it out of the neutral zone, it had the back-and-forth feel of a tightly-played tennis match. Richards’ goal proved to be the most critical, as each game of the series has been won by the team that has scored first.
Michael Del Zotto’s awareness presented itself halfway through the third period, when Marian Gaborik had a shot blocked facing three Capitals. Del Zotto hustled through past the blue line to snap the loose puck past a screened Holtby, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Capitals’ Roman Hamrlik chipped a change-up past Lundqvist just 28 seconds later, quickly regaining some hope for Washington. The Rangers, who have been beaten in the shot-blocking statistic all series, recovered their groove of self-sacrifice, blocking 19 shots to Washington’s 15, while only allowing 4 third period shots.
After a delay-of-game call sent Ruslan Fedotenko to the penalty box for dumping the puck into the crowd, Brian Boyle generated a shorthand opportunity in which he charged to the net with the puck, knocking it in with his leg off a deflection. The goal was initially ruled off, and after review the officials determined that Boyle interfered with Hotlby while a defender was guarding him.
The non-call allowed the Capitals to tie the game while still on the power play, but the Rangers shut down their attempts to get the puck by Lundqvist. New York killed the final minutes conservatively, maintaining possession against the boards and tightening the defense to eliminate open ice.
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