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Richards sparks Rangers to Game Seven victory over Capitals
While goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was the star attraction against the Ottawa Senators in their opening round winner take all battle, it was Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto who stole the show in the New York's 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. The win puts the Rangers into the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1997.
Edmonton - May 12, 2012 - When it comes to a Game Seven scenario, teams that generally win are the ones that have their top players perform at crunch time. For the second time in this year's playoffs, the New York Rangers received that type of performance and now find themselves in the Eastern Conference finals, after defeating the Washington Capitals 2-1.
While goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was the star attraction against the Ottawa Senators in their opening round winner take all battle, it was Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto who stole the show against the Caps. The pair were a force from the drop of the puck and picked up their level of play, where the likes of Alex Ovechkin failed to deliver. The win puts the Rangers into the Conference finals for the first time since 1997 and will now take on the New Jersey Devils for the right to go to the Stanley Cup finals.
With the MSG crowd firmly behind them, the Rangers came out like gangbusters and were rewarded with an early goal. Carl Hagelin flew into the Washington zone and picked up Del Zotto's perfectly placed dump in and quickly found Brad Richards for a one timer, that cleanly beat Braden Holtby. New York could not have hoped for a better start. A minute and thirty-two seconds in and they not only had the lead but they now had the Caps on their heels and their star player was already on the board.
From that point on, the netminders took over. Both sides had their chances but Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist were up to the task. Lundqvist had the more difficult stops to make in the middle frame, the best of the lot being a brilliant pad stop off Alexander Semin midway through the period. While at the other end, the Capitals youngster continued with his calm, cool and collected routine under pressure and sucked up all Ranger attempts on goal without a hitch..
New York would finally get their insurance marker midway through the third, after Marian Gaborik's shot attempt was blocked but fell to Del Zotto, who promptly ripped a shot past a surprised and partially screened Holtby, to make it a two goal cushion.
To their credit, Washington would not go down without a fight. The Capitals would finally sneak one past the Rangers netminder, just thirty-eight seconds after the Del Zotto goal. Roman Hamrlik's harmless looking wrist shot sailed over a completely screened Lundqvist and into the back of the Rangers net and just like that, the Caps still had life and just over nine minutes to complete the comeback.
Considering their season was in the balance, Washington showed very little and had no response to New York's swarming defensive play. They managed to get all of two shots through to the Rangers goal over the final nine minutes and made Lundqvist's life about as easy as John Tortorella and his coaching staff, could have hoped for.
While Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin's lack of ice time has been a reoccurring storyline throughout these playoffs, the "Great 8" saw over twenty minutes of ice in Game Seven and was frankly terrible. After seeing his minutes limited in the playoffs, Ovechkin wanted nothing more then to prove that he could be that difference maker. Instead, the highly skilled Russian reverted back to his old ways and took some absurdly long shifts, which left him utterly useless in the final ten minutes of the third period.
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