“Lightning” Strike! Stepan “Capitalizes” on OT rebound, Rangers advance (NYR 2 v WSH 1)

Rangers mob Stepan in OT (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Rangers mob Stepan in OT (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Yes, the Rangers have done it again! They completed yet another 2nd round comeback down 3-1 in a series. One year to the day, the Blueshirts on a goal by Derek Stepan completed the feat and are the first team in NHL history to do so in consecutive years.

[su_quote cite=”Blueshirts United” url=”http://www.blueshirtsunited.com/article/rangers-advance-2-1-game-seven-win-overtime”]”It’s a special feeling,” Stepan said of his overtime series-clinching goal. “It’s certainly a lot of fun, but we have a lot of work to do here. You know we are only half way.” [/su_quote]

The game of course wasn’t easy on Rangers fans as once again it was decided by only one goal. It also didn’t start the way they wanted it to when Alex Ovechkin powered one through Henrik Lundqvist‘s glove 12:50 into the game.

Of course it would be Ovechkin who scored, especially after guaranteeing a win immediately after losing Game 6. Now the Rangers would also have to overcome the early deficit in this game too.

In the second period, a parade of Capitals went into the penalty box. They simply could not hang with the Rangers speed. It began with a late Jay Beagle hold in the first, followed by back to back Mike Green penalties.

Hayes tied it on the PP (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hayes tied it on the PP (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After one miserable PP after PP, the Rangers kids finally got the job done. J.T. Miller retrieved a puck near the blueline by the boards. With his head up, he froze the Caps defense and found Kevin Hayes for a backdoor feed that knotted the game.

That’s how it remained until the 11:24 mark of OT. That’s when Keith Yandle who has certainly struggled, picked up a face-off win and fed Dan Girardi who blasted one from the point. The initial shot appeared to be blocked by Brooks Orpik and fortuitously landed on Stepan’s stick right in front. Braden Holtby was down from the initial shot and #21 made no mistake as he rifled past the prone goaltender for the series winner.

Holtby was heroic in this series and was the main reason why the Capitals were able to last 7 games. The Rangers had the edge in play in almost every game, except game 6 which ironically they won. Unfortunately for him, he faced The King of Game 7, Henrik Lundqvist who made 35 outstanding stops of his own and is now 6-1 with a 0.97 GAA in hockey’s most dramatic game.

[su_quote cite=”Blueshirts United” url=”http://www.blueshirtsunited.com/article/rangers-advance-2-1-game-seven-win-overtime”]”You know everything is on the line,” stated Lundqvist, who allowed only 12 goals in the seven-game series, which included a pair of overtime contests. “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.”[/su_quote]

Now the Rangers are moving on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team they could not beat once during the regular season. Of course, all those contests happened before the Rangers really began to roll in early December.

Alain Vigneault was asked about his next opponent an said, “We played Tampa  a long, long time ago. So I’m going to take tonight to soak it in, and I’m going to start getting ready probably tomorrow morning.”

When the Rangers face the Lightning it will began on home ice. A right the Rangers earned by winning the President’s Trophy as the best team in the NHL. Game 1, is set for 1PM and will have plenty of subplots to go with it. Martin St. Louis who asked to be traded will return one year later to face the franchise he won a Cup with, as will Dan Boyle. On the opposite end, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman will face their former mates, 1 year removed from a Stanley Cup run that came up short.

Former Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan who was traded in the MSL deal may miss some time in the series. Callahan had an emergency appendectomy and was forced to miss Tampa’s clinching game 6 against Montreal. His status remains in doubt.

As for Mats Zuccarello? Well, a reporter asked Zuccarello himself how he was feeling to which Zucc replied, “Getting better.” When AV was asked, he answered with a smirk, “he’s coming along.”

If the Rangers hope to return to the Stanley Cup Final, they will need all their guys on board. The Lightning play a skill game, so don’t expect the clutching and grabbing you saw from the Pens and Caps. The two best teams are in the ECF. Only one will get to earn the right to play for the Cup…but for now, let’s enjoy this historic win.

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