In a tight, gritty series that offered little margin for error, Game 7 did not go as expected. Instead of the nail-biter that many anticipated, the New York Rangers dominated the Washington Capitals with a lopsided 5-0 rout at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Rangers rallied back in the best-of-seven set to punch their ticket for a second-round showdown against the Boston Bruins. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist recorded his second straight shutout, making 35 saves to send the Capitals packing for the summer.
Piling on: Trailing 3-0 to start the third, the Caps didn’t quite muster the response they’d like, surrendering a back-breaking goal to Rangers captain Ryan Callahan just 13 seconds into play. Callahan took the puck from Caps defenseman John Erskine and backhanded one past Caps goaltender Braden Holtby for a commanding four-goal lead. Mats Zuccarello then piled on for a fifth goal with a pretty deke to spoil any hopes of a Caps' comeback. With assists on both Zuccarello’s third-period goal and Del Zotto’s goal in the second, Rangers center Derick Brassard finished the series with seven assists and nine points. Brassard was acquired in a deal with Columbus at the trade deadline in April.
Foot on the gas: The Rangers built on a 1-0 lead with another pair in the second to mount a comfortable three-goal lead early in the period. Taylor Pyatt pounced on a rebound at 3:24 and Michael Del Zotto notched one minutes later, unleashing a shot from the left point that deflected off Troy Brouwer’s skate at 5:34.
Hot hand: Rugged fourth-liner Arron Asham gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period, beating Holtby high glove with 6:41 to play. Linemate Chris Kreider made a nice little drop pass to Asham to pick up an assist, while Lundqvist made two key saves on the other end before the play. Lundqvist stoned both Mike Green and Eric Fehr’s rebound attempt to hold the Capitals scoreless.
Let’s get physical: Ovechkin contributed a physical couple of shifts to set the tone in the first period, an opening frame in which the Caps won the territorial battle and dominated the Rangers from the faceoff circle, even though Washington trailed 1-0 after Asham’s goal. But, he was held off the score sheet for the past five games of the series, the longest drought of his NHL playoff career.
All eyes on Boston: While the Rangers went to work on the Capitals, there was a stunning surprise developing at Boston’s TD Garden. The Toronto Maple Leafs blew a three-goal lead in Game 7 in Beantown, giving up two goals in the final 1:22 of play as the Bruins pushed the game to overtime. Patrice Bergeron tallied both the game-tying goal and the winner to hand the Leafs a jaw-dropping, devastating loss.