The New York Rangers will play the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after the teams won the seventh games of their first-round playoff series on Monday.
Led by Henrik Lundqvist’s 35 saves in a second consecutive shutout and goals from some unlikely sources, the Rangers beat the Washington Capitals 5-0.
In Boston, Patrice Bergeron equalized with 51 seconds left in regulation then scored the game-winner 6 minutes, 5 seconds into overtime to give Boston a 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs.
New York contained Alex Ovechkin again and completed their comeback after trailing in the series 2-0 and 3-2 — the latest in Washington’s long history of playoff collapses.
It was the first time New York had won a Game 7 on the road in their history.
Arron Asham put New York ahead in the first period, before Taylor Pyatt and Michael Del Zotto made it 3-0 early in the second on goals 2:10 apart.
Ryan Callahan added a goal 13 seconds into the third period, and when Mats Zuccarello scored with about 13.5 minutes remaining, thousands of red-clad fans streamed to the exits.
Soon after, when Lundqvist fell forward to smother a puck, chants of “Hen-reeek, Hen-reeek” from the no-longer-outnumbered Rangers supporters rose in the arena.
From the moment Mike Ribeiro’s overtime goal gave Washington a Game 5 victory, Lundqvist was simply superb.
The Swede stopped all 62 shots he faced in Game 6 and Game 7, showing exactly why he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie last season and is a finalist this season.
Tuukka Rask stopped 24 shots for Boston, who led the best-of-seven series 3-1, before the Maple Leafs won two in a row to force a seventh game.
Toronto opened a 4-1 lead in the third period of the decisive game, but Boston cut the deficit to two midway through the third period and then scored twice in the final 82 seconds to force overtime.
James Reimer made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs. Cody Franson scored twice, while former Bruin Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist for Toronto.
The win completed an up-and-down weekend for Boston, who won Game 3 and Game 4 in Toronto last week to put the Maple Leafs on the brink of elimination, but failed to clinch at home on Friday and again in Game 6, when the series returned to the Air Canada Centre.
The Bruins found out during the game that their plane had mechanical difficulties, so they returned to their Toronto hotel and flew back to Boston on Monday morning, just hours before the game.
They appeared tired in the early part of the game, spotting Toronto a 4-1 lead on Nazem Kadri’s goal at 5:29 of the third period.
However, Nathan Horton brought Boston within two goals, and then Milan Lucic and Bergeron scored 31 seconds apart in the final 1:22 after the Bruins pulled Rask for an extra skater.
Bergeron ended it early in the overtime, sending his teammates pouring over the boards while the crowd fell into a frenzy.
“We found a way to win and that is all that matters,” Canadian forward Bergeron said. “Now we move onto the second round. We have a great group of guys. We relied on our experience to get the job done.”