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Rangers beat Penguins in Game 7 to advance to Eastern Conference finals
It hadn't been done in the 89-year history of the franchise, but the Rangers rewrote the playoff books Tuesday night.
They had never rallied from being down three games to one in a Stanley Cup playoff series. But Tuesday night they completed that comeback with a 2-1 Game 7 victory over the Penguins that vaulted them into the Eastern Conference finals.
"After Game 4, we felt pretty bad about where we stood in the series, we wanted so many plays back," said Martin St. Louis, whose backhand feed to Brad Richards on a second-period power play set up his series-winner. "The passing of my mom put everything in perspective and we really rallied. I couldn't be more proud, the boys have really embraced my situation. I can't believe it, we come back three games, one at a time."
The remarkable revival was engineered primarily by Henrik Lundqvist, who made 35 saves, and allowed just one goal in each of the past three games in winning his fifth consecutive Game 7.
"We had guys diving and putting their faces in the crease trying to will it into the net," said Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen. "It wouldn't go. He was good."
Actually, Lundqvist was far better than good Tuesday night, especially in a sequence late in the third period when the frenzied Penguins were buzzing. Somehow, Lundqvist managed to get his arm up to deflect a puck that bounced off a loose stick lying in front of the crease.
"Those saves with five minutes to go," said defenseman Marc Staal, "I don't know whether it was three or four in a row, those are the biggest saves I've seen since I got here."
Lundqvist had a lead to protect because with the score tied at 1, Richards scored a power- play goal at 7:56 of the second period on a backhanded pass from St. Louis. "Coming down the slot, it's flat on your tape," said Richards, who is 7-0 in Game 7s. "You dream of those opportunities."
Before Richards' series-winner, the Rangers led early on Brian Boyle's goal at 5:25 of the first -- his second of the playoffs of a pass from Dominic Moore.
But Jussi Jokinen tied it on a rebound at 4:15 of the second.
"We got a big goal from Moorsie's line to give us the lead, and we're tough to play against when we have the lead," St. Louis said. "They pushed back, and got a goal, and the [struggling] power play's been the talk for the first two rounds; tonight the power- play goal is the difference. You persevere, you try to be part of the solution and we did that tonight."
To be sure, Richards and St. Louis, who won a Cup together in 2004 with Tampa Bay, are clutch. "Since Marty has come in here, they settle everything down and they come up big," Boyle said. "They talk a lot with their play on the ice. It's been contagious."
Then it was left to the Game 7 magic of Lundqvist, who was sharp from the start at Consol Energy Center and is 10-2 in elimination games since 2012. The Rangers have won eight of the last nine Game 7s they have played, dating to 1992, and five of the last six have been decided by a 2-1 score.
But players said this hard-fought win, over the team that finished first in the Metropolitan Division during the season and had superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, was among the most satisfying.
"I've never come back from a 3-1 hole," Richards said. "When we won the Cup final, down 3-2, that will always be No. 1, but I can't tell you how amazed I am at this group, this last little while here."