The New York Rangers battled through an evenly matched clash and fended off a spirited third-period rally from the Philadelphia Flyers to emerge with a 2-1 Game 7 victory on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
The win puts the Blueshirts into the second round, where they will face Sydney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in their continued pursuit of the 2014 Stanley Cup.
SportsCenter's official Twitter account alluded to the perfect record the Rangers preserved in these ultimate series-deciding contests at home:
RANGERS ADVANCE! New York knocks off Philadelphia, 2-1. Blueshirts now 6-0 all-time at home in Game 7s. pic.twitter.com/Pip4yxUnQR— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 1, 2014
Chances came in spades for the hosts throughout the first two periods, but Flyers goalie Steve Mason did everything short of standing on his head, just as he did in a winning effort for most of Tuesday's Game 6. But eventually, New York's tempo and attack-oriented mindset overwhelmed the visitors from Philadelphia, as they succumbed to the relentless pressure the Rangers applied.
After Mason proved to be a brick wall through the first intermission, New York blitzed him with 18 shots in the second period to the Flyers' five. Daniel Carcillo finally lit the lamp in the Big Apple with his second goal of the series at 3:06.
Kenny Albert of Fox Sports noted how Carcillo, renowned more for his physical play than his offensive prowess since he tallied just four goals in 57 appearances in the regular season, has had some timely contributions in these playoffs:
That score alone—while a rarity for Carcillo in its own right—suggested the Rangers had the outcome well in hand, if this piece of history from the Elias Sports Bureau was any indication:
New York center Brad Richards stressed the importance of home ice after his club lost 5-2 in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
"Game 7s are what brings the best out of people," said Richards, per the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis. "We’re going home where we’ve had success in Game 7s, especially a lot of these guys in this room. That’s why we battled hard right to the end—to get home ice."
A scramble for the puck about midway through the second period led to Derick Brassard feeding a beautiful pass into the slot to a charging Benoit Pouliot, who beat Mason on a one-timer to the glove side, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Mason had no chance to stop the picturesquely executed play, and once the Rangers' assault was over when the second-period horn sounded, Rob Ellis of CBS 3 in Philadelphia weighed in:
Might be the greatest 2 goals allowed period by a goalie I've seen— Rob Ellis (@robellis94) May 1, 2014
With approximately nine minutes left in the third, though, the Flyers had five consecutive scoring chances following the second intermission. It was a relieving turn of the tables for Mason, who faced the pressure of continuing to outplay Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist—and by many measures, he did.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio observed an evident spark present in the Flyers over the final 20 minutes:
Flyers have made a strong push this period and have Rangers on their heels— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) May 1, 2014
One of those opportunities cut New York's lead in half, as Jason Akeson stuffed it home from the doorstep just 4:32 into the third to make the score 2-1. Steve Zipay of Newsday described the hustle Akeson displayed, which played into the theme of Philadelphia's adrenaline-fueled final stand:
Staal blocks Akeson's shot, but he gets the rebound and beats Lundqvist far-side at 4:32— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) May 1, 2014
But Lundqvist and a stonewall Rangers defense muscled up down the stretch, blocking numerous shots as they have all series to make their goaltender's job easier.
With little more than a minute remaining, Flyers coach Craig Berube opted to pull Mason, but even an extra attacker couldn't generate opportunities when it mattered most.
How much further will the Rangers advance in the playoffs?
Neither Rick Nash nor Martin St. Louis produced any points in the final two games of this series, which is discouraging for the Rangers since they need those two stars to generate offense versus Pittsburgh. Nash especially needs to get going, as he's known to come up rather small in the playoffs despite his immense talent and scoring ability.
New York will be in for a massive test in the second round. The Penguins have one of the most high-powered offenses in the NHL, and have had a rest after a tough series against Columbus.
Lundqvist will have to continue being brilliant if the Rangers want to keep their Stanley Cup dreams afloat.