Derek Stepan scored on an overtime goal to lift the New York Rangers to a 2-1 win over the visiting Washington Capitals on May 13. New York will now move on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.
The New York Rangers are moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Derek Stepan's goal 11 minutes and 24 seconds into the overtime period of Game 7 lifted the Rangers to a 2-1 win over the visiting Washington Capitals on May 13. New York wins the series, 4-3, per BlueshirtsUnited.com's Jim Cerny.
After Stepan won a face off in the right-wing circle, Keith Yandle got the puck and sent it to Dan Girardi, who tried to shoot it into the net but was thwarted by Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
However, as Girardi let go of his shot, Stepan already cut to the net and got the rebound in the right-wing circle. The latter got the rebound and put the puck into the net for his third goal of the series.
Madison Square Garden exploded.
Stepan told Cerny he's happy with the win, but there's more work that lies ahead:
"It's a special feeling. It's certainly a lot of fun, but we have a lot of work to do here. You know we are only halfway.
"It was pretty much a hard-fought series. Both teams back and forth, momentum swings. For most of overtime they have the puck and we just find a way to stick with it.
"Hank (Henrik Lundqvist) made some big saves and we were able to get a fortunate bounce."
Lundqvist, the New York netminder, finished with 35 saves. He becomes just the third goaltender in league history to win six Game 7s in his career. The other two are Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy, per BlueshirtsUnited.com.
During that six-game span, Lundqvist posted an incredible 0.81 goals-against average (GAA) and .973 save percentage.
He told BlueshirtsUnited.com there was little room for error in a Game 7 like the one against the Capitals:
"You know everything is on the line. You think a lot throughout the game, you try not to be ahead of yourself or anything like that, but it's hard not to. The last five minutes of the third period and overtime you know one mistake and it's all over or you are moving on.
"It's such a great feeling when you see the puck go in."
His counterpart, Holtby, finished with 37 saves.
The Rangers won their third consecutive game of the seires to battle back from a 3-1 deficit. New York also fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This marks the first time in NHL history a team has overcome a 3-1 playoff series deficit for two consecutive years, per Cerny.
It was also the third time in four years the Rangers eliminated the Capitals in a Game 7. All of the games in this year's playoff series between the two squads were decided by just one goal, per BlueshirtsUnited.com.
Not only did New York build on its success against Washington, it also won its sixth consecutive Game 7 and 10th consecutive playoff elimination game at Madison Square Garden.
The Capitals got on the board first when forward Alex Ovechkin scored 12:50 into the first period, when Washington outshot New York, 15-10. It was the Washington captain's third goal of the series, per Cerny.
Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes tied the count at 1 off an assist by J.T. Miller with 6:22 left in the second period. The Rangers gained the advantage on shots over the Capitals, 15-7.
From there, it was a defensive struggle until Stepan's overtime goal.
"There is so little separating both teams," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told Mike Vogel of the Capitals' official website. "It was a very competitive series. Both teams had their top players playing well. It was a lot of fun."
On the other hand, Capitals head coacy Barry Trotz told Vogel he couldn't agree more:
"We had 14 incredible games in our two series here going seven and they were very hard, very intense and they were that close in Game 5 here. We could have closed it out and then in Game 6 we got off to a slow start and from there I think you saw what the Washington Capitals are about today.
"You saw two very good teams go nose to nose with the team winning an inch here, and everybody here probably predicted seven games and you got it."
The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning begin their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals series at Madison Square Garden on May 16, per Cerny.
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