WASHINGTON -- The first public comments New York Rangers coach John Tortorella made following Game 7 Monday night were also the most obvious.
"I think it was probably our best game of the series," Tortorella said.
Indeed, it was.
Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves for his second shutout in roughly 30 hours and the Rangers' offense stole the show as Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan and Mats Zuccarello all scored to lift New York to a 5-0 victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Rangers trailed the series 2-0 after losing in overtime in Game 2. They were 0-3 with two goals in three games at Verizon Center prior to Game 7. But, it didn't matter because they erased the early-series deficit and killed the demons inside the Capitals' home building that were haunting them with one dominating performance that started with the all-world goalie and finished with a flurry of offense.
Lundqvist did not allow a goal in the final 120 minutes of a series that included five straight games decided by one goal heading into Game 7.
"To have played this well in such an important game, it is definitely going to help us moving forward," Lundqvist said. "It is a lot about confidence, especially in a game like this and the one [Sunday]. You have to believe you can do it and you can't question anything. You can't think too much about things you can't control. It is about going out and taking care of business and doing the things you talk about -- and we did and it paid off big time."
The Rangers now turn their attention the Boston Bruins, who came back from a three-goal deficit in the third period to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime Monday. The Rangers and Bruins haven't played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1973, when New York beat Boston in the quarterfinals. It was a rematch of the 1972 Stanley Cup Final won by the Bruins.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is Thursday at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).
"They're a big heavy team, they're tough," said Rangers forward Rick Nash, who went the entire opening round without a goal. "It's going to be a tough series, but we'll enjoy this one [Monday night] and then back to work."
Lundqvist, who got the Rangers into a Game 7 because he was perfect against 27 shots for a 1-0 win in Game 6 Sunday, took the life out of the Capitals on Monday with 13 saves in the first period. Washington felt it was the better team through 20 minutes, but Lundqvist made Asham's goal 13:19 into the period hold up for a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Asham beat Washington goalie Braden Holtby (22 saves) over the catching glove with a seeing-eye shot off the rush from the right circle. Asham had more goals than Nash, Callahan and Caps captain Alex Ovechkin in the series.
"Obviously we pushed very hard in the first period; he made a lot of great saves," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "They got a lucky one and every bounce seemed to go their way after that."
New York's lead ballooned to 3-0 before five and a half minutes had elapsed in the second period. Pyatt scored off a rebound at 3:24 and Del Zotto scored his second goal of the series on a deflected shot through Holtby's five-hole 2:10 later.
With Lundqvist on their side, the Rangers just had to keep things simple to preserve the lead. They did.
"Get the puck in, get the puck out," Asham said. "The guys did that. It's a very good feeling right now."
However, the Capitals still didn't feel as though they were out of the game despite being down 3-0 after 40 minutes. Ovechkin said they were aware of Boston's comeback from a three-goal deficit late in the third period and figured they could try something similar.
Callahan changed that with his goal 13 seconds into the third period.
"It was over after that," Ovechkin said.
Speaking of Ovechkin, his final line in the seven-game series reads one goal in Game 1, an assist in Game 2 and then five straight games without a point.
Ovechkin was held to one shot on goal in Game 7. He had 30 shots on goal for the series.
"He's one of the best players in the world and I'm just a fourth-line plug," said Asham, who outscored the Russian superstar 2-1 over the seven games. "So it's definitely nice."
In addition to his stat line for the series, the Capitals fell to 2-5 in Game 7s since Ovechkin has been on the team. They are now 3-9 all-time in Game 7s, including 2-7 at home. And, they are 4-6 all-time after winning the first two games of a series.
Ovechkin said the series reminded him of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The difference is after taking a 2-0 lead, Washington lost three straight before winning Game 6 in overtime to force a Game 7 at home.
The Penguins won it, 6-2.
"It's very frustrating," Ovechkin said. "You're here to win the games and try to win the Cup."
The Rangers still have a chance to do that for the first time since 1994 because, as Tortorella said, they played their best game of the series Monday night.
They'll probably have to be better starting Thursday in Boston.
"We're going to be ready for them," Asham said.
|Arron Asham (2) ASST: Chris Kreider (1)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Taylor Pyatt (1) ASST: Derek Dorsett (1), Steve Eminger (1)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Michael Del Zotto (1) ASST: Derick Brassard (6), Rick Nash (2)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Ryan Callahan (1) ASST: NONE|
4 - 0 NYR
|Mats Zuccarello (1) ASST: Derick Brassard (7), Steve Eminger (2)|
5 - 0 NYR
|Arron Asham Roughing against Matt Hendricks|
|Troy Brouwer Slashing against Derick Brassard|
|Steve Eminger Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Troy Brouwer Slashing against Derick Brassard|
|Mike Ribeiro Misconduct|