For the first time in his NHL career, Alex Ovechkin
and the Washington Capitals
are going to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sergei Fedorov's goal with 4:59 left in regulation gave the Capitals a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers and a seven-game victory in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The 18-year-veteran snapped a shot from the right circle past Henrik Lundqvist from just below the right faceoff dot, using defenseman Wade Redden as a screen and catching the far to corner. It was his eihth
The Caps, who advanced beyond the first round for the first time since making the 1998 Final, became the 21st team in NHL history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. They had done it once before, in 1988. The Caps overcame a 3-1 deficit against Philadelphia last year to force Game 7, but lost to Philadelphia in overitme at home.
The Rangers had never lost when leading a series 3-1.
Washington will face Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Fedorov scored on the return rush after the Rangers' Ryan Callahan shot high and wide on a good chance. He carried down the right side and let go with a wrist shot that got over Lundqvist's glove by an inch or so and just tucked in under the crossbar.
"He came down the wing and beat me with a good shot. That's what happened," said Lundqvist, who rebounded with a solid effort after allowing nine goals in four periods in games 5 and 6. "The difference between winning and losing is so small. It's tough when you're that close and you feel like you're doing the right thing. I think the guys played really well tonight. I'm happy with the way we reponded after two tough games."
Rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov faced only 15 shots, but made key stops in the final two periods to preserve a 1-1 tie.
Both teams scored in the first period, but the Caps gradually took over the play. They dominated the third period, outshooting the Rangers 13-1 and preventing the Rangers from getting Lundqvist off the ice in the final minute.
It was a tough loss for the Rangers, who played far better than they did in losing Games 5 and 6, but came up short.
The Rangers played perhaps their best period of the series in the opening 20 minutes -- outskating, outworking and outshooting the Caps 8-2 -- but had to settle for a 1-1 tie.
New York had two great chances in the first 45 seconds, but Varlamov stopped Sean Avery's wide-open wrister from the right side of the slot and stuffed Nik Antropov on a breakaway. But the Avery-Antropov-Callahan line opened the scoring at 5:35 when Avery outworked two Caps to free the puck along the left wall. He fed Callahan, who faked a shot and dropped the puck to Antropov for a wide-open 10-footer on which Varlamov had no chance.
The Rangers held Washington without a shot for 13 minutes before Henrik Lundqvist had to stop a blue-line shot by Tom Poti. But Washington tied the game at 15:34 on a double-deflection of Alexander Semin's shot/pass. The puck hit diving forward Ryan Callahan, then caromed off defenseman Dan Girardi and into the net.
Washington came out skating much harder in the second period and forced Lundqvist to make a pair of excellent stops less than three minutes in. Ovechkin got off a rocket from the high slot after a turnover that Lundqvist stopped but couldn’t control, forcing him to make an even better save on Viktor Kozlov's rebound try.
Lundqvist continued to see more shots than he had in the first period, though nowhere near the barrage he faced for most of the first four games. Halfway through the period, Washington had seven shots to three for the Rangers.
But the second half of the period generally belonged to the Rangers, who controlled the tempo and generally kept the Washington attackers to the outside. They had their best chance of the period with 60 seconds remaining when Varlamov had to make a big stop with his pads on Brandon Dubinsky's tip of Girardi's blast from the right point.
Ovechkin tested Lundqvist twice early in the third period as the Caps began to control the tempo. The Rangers went nearly 10 minutes without a shot, though when they finally got one, Varlamov had to make an excellent stop on Ryan Callahan's tip try.
did all he could to create the Rangers' goal. Avery, with some help from Brandon Dubinsky
, won a battle in the corner for the puck with Caps defenseman Brian Pothier
. He worked the puck got it to Nik Antropov
, who fed the puck low to Dubinsky. Dubinsky tried a toe-drag to get Simeon Varlamov off balance, but the goalie made a nice poke. Unfortunately, the puck went straight out to Antropov, who banged it home just 5:35 into the game. Love him or hate him -- there is no in-between -- Avery made the play happen with his toughness along the boards.
Amazingly, it's Alex Ovechkin
. Yes, the biggest superstar in the series played a supporting role -- and he played it well. Ovechkin was again everywhere on the ice and was always noticeable when he was out there. In fact, it wouldn't unreasonable to think the Rangers, especially Wade Redden
, were wondering where Ovechkin was when Fedorov ripped his winner from the right circle past Lundqvist with just 4:59 left. For the record, he was on the left side.
For the first time all series, the Rangers dominated the time of possession by holding the puck low in the attacking zone through the first two periods. The Caps' defensemen were chasing a lot, especially in the second period, but the Rangers didn't use the possession to get a lot of shots on Varlamov. They had only 14 through two periods, including just six in the second period when they were clearly the dominant team. Of course, when it mattered most, the Caps dominated and held the Rangers to just one shot in the third period while peppering Lundqvist with 13. Therein lies the reason they're moving on and the Rangers are going home.
The Caps, who entered Game 7 with 192 shots on goal in the series, amazingly had only two in the first period. Fortunately, one of them -- a shot by Alexander Semin
that hit Ryan Callahan
's stick and then his skate before ticking off Dan Girardi
-- beat Henrik Lundqvist
. The Caps were averaging 10.8 shots on goal per game in the first period until Tuesday night. That they got out of the first with a 1-1 tie is amazing and played a huge role the rest of the game.
started to show his age a bit in this series, but the future Hall of Famer again showed why he is a future Hall of Famer. Fedorov scored the series winner with 4:59 to play in the game. He skated down the right wing boards after getting an outlet pass from Matt Bradley
, stopped on a dime and blew a shot past Wade Redden
and into the net beyond Lundqvist. It was another amazing moment for this amazing player.