The New York Rangers roared back from a 3-1 series deficit to win Game 7, as Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins went out with a whimper.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves to win his fifth straight Game 7, as the Rangers eliminated the Penguins in Pittsburgh, 2-1. Lundqvist entered the game with a 4-1 lifetime record in Game 7s with a 1.00 GAA and a .936 save percentage.
In Tuesday night’s finale against Pittsburgh, he was again the difference for the Blueshirts, who advanced to the conference final after a series whose emotional dynamic dramatically shifted after the death of forward Martin St. Louis’ mother prior to Game 5.
“It was a roller-coaster emotionally,” said Lundqvist after the game, “but we handled it the right way, and we move onto the next round.”
As Lundqvist builds an MVP case for the Rangers, Penguins star Sidney Crosby saw the worst postseason his career end without a point in Game 7.
Crosby finishes the 2014 playoffs with nine points in 12 games, but only one goal. He didn’t have a point in Games 6 and 7, generating just three shots on goal. Overall, Crosby has one goal in his last 18 playoff games.
For the Penguins, the struggles go beyond Crosby – James Neal, for example, had two goals in 12 game – but the captain will be under the magnifying glass for his lack of production and his testy, unhinged behavior near the end of the Rangers series.
Pittsburgh loses yet another series against a lower-seeded team, and on home ice. Will this be the last game Coach Dan Bylsma appears in behind the Penguins bench?
Meanwhile, Alain Vigneault has the Rangers in the conference final in his first year as head coach while the man he replaced – John Tortorella – has already been fired in AV’s old stomping grounds of Vancouver.
Vigneault can thank Lundqvist for the trip to the conference championship series.
Lundqvist gobbled up rebounds all night and was spectacular when he needed to be. With just over 2 minutes left in the second, Lundqvist slid over and was a wall in front of a James Neal one-timer.
At 5:15 of the third, Lundqvist made a miraculous, desperation save on a scramble in front without his goal stick, making a save on Paul Martin with his hip before covering.
The Rangers didn’t give Lundqvist much goal support, but just enough.
Richards gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead on the power play. Derek Stepan’s shot from the left circle was deflected, but Marty St. Louis corralled the loose puck and sent a quick pass that pinballed to Richards. His shot was point-blank and beat Fleury to make it 2-1.
The Rangers’ depth players once again outplayed the Penguins, as was evidenced by their opening goal. Brian Boyle sent a little pass to Derek Dorsett, who then slipped a pass through Olli Maata and back to Boyle for the 1-0 lead.
The Penguins evened the score on a Jussi Jokinen goal, his seventh in the playoffs, as Lundqvist sent a rebound right to his stick.
It would be the only goal they’d get. In rallying the Rangers, Lundqvist faced 105 shots and stopped 102 of them, for a .971 save percentage.
In Game 7, he came up huge, while Sidney Crosby was MIA. And now, so are the Penguins.