- Last Updated: 10:42 PM, May 12, 2012
- Posted: 10:05 PM, May 12, 2012
Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto scored, Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves, and the New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 victory in Game 7 over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
Richards scored less than two minutes in, and Del Zotto doubled the lead in the third period to help the top-seeded Rangers improve to 5-0 in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden. That set up a matchup with the New Jersey Devils, the team the Rangers beat in the 1994 conference finals en route to their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years.
That series will open Monday in New York.
New York and Washington alternated wins and losses from Game 1 on, and this one didn't come easy for the Rangers, who missed a chance to eliminate the Capitals in Game 6 on the road.
Just 38 seconds after Del Zotto made it 2-0 at 10:05 of the third, Roman Hamrlik sent a shot off of New York forward Derek Stepan that fluttered past Lundqvist for his only blemish of the night.
Braden Holtby played well in his second career Game 7, making 29 saves. It was yet another heartbreaker for the Capitals, who were looking to reach the conference finals for the third time. Six of Washington's seven playoff losses were by one goal, and only one of its 14 games overall were decided by more than one.
Both the Rangers and the Capitals reached the second round of this year's playoffs with Game 7 wins. New York knocked out Ottawa, and Washington eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
But history isn't all on the Rangers' side. Since playoff expansion, no club has played 14 games in the first two rounds and went on to capture the Cup.
New York played a very disciplined game, taking only one penalty for delay of game against Ruslan Fedotenko in the third period. The Rangers' power play did nothing on its two chances, but keeping Washington's man-advantage unit off the ice helped secure this win.
The Capitals tried to pull Holtby for an extra skater with 1:22 left in the game, but he had to scramble back to cover the vacated net before he ever got to the bench.
He finally got off the ice, and the Capitals pressured in the Rangers' end. The puck was stuck in the corner when the final seconds ran out, and Lundqvist thrust both arms in the air as streamers poured down from the ceiling.Follow @NYPostsports