More Game 7 magic by Lundqvist
NEW YORK Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had trouble finding the words to describe goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
"He's OK," Vigneault said finally with a small shake of his head.
Except that is, in Game 7s. In Game 7s, Lundqvist is unbeatable.
And so are the Rangers.
Frustrating Sidney Crosby and the reeling Pittsburgh Penguins one final time, Lundqvist made 35 saves to lift visiting New York to a 2-1 win last night and give his resilient team an unlikely spot in the Eastern Conference finals.
"I was so tired at the end," Lundqvist said after setting an NHL record with his fifth straight Game 7 triumph. "But it was just a great feeling when you know it's a done deal and we did it."
Brian Boyle and Brad Richards scored for New York, which rallied from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in the franchise's 88-year history.
The Rangers did it behind Lundqvist, who stopped 102 of the final 105 shots he faced over the last three games as New York advanced to the conference finals for the second time in 3 years.
The three-time All-Star is 10-2 when facing elimination.
He was at his best during a mad scramble in front of the Rangers' net with just over 5 minutes left, when he turned aside three shots from three different angles in a matter of seconds to preserve a one-goal lead.
"He was OK with guys being on top of him as long as we didn't take penalties," New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "He fought through screens, fought for loose pucks. He was incredible."
The Rangers will play the winner of the Bruins-Canadiens series in the conference finals. That series is tied, 3-3, with Game 7 tonight in Boston.
Jussi Jokinen scored his team-high seventh goal of the postseason for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves for the Penguins, who outshot New York 36-20, but were outscored 10-3 over the final three games.
Pittsburgh fell to 2-7 all time at home in Game 7s, including three such losses in the past five seasons.
This one might have been the most painful for the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and coach Dan Bylsma that seemed pointed toward a dynasty after winning the 2009 Stanley Cup.
Crosby, who led the league in scoring and is an MVP finalist, managed just one goal in 13 playoffs games.
Just as importantly, five springs have now come and gone without Pittsburgh getting a Cup to bookend the one it hoisted that giddy night in Detroit, and changes could be on the way.
The Penguins are just 4-5 in playoff series over the past five seasons, with each loss coming to lower-seeded teams.
"I think there's always questions," Crosby said. "When expectations are high and you don't win, that's normal. I'm sure there will be a lot of questions."
Faced with their fifth Game 7 in the past 3 years, the Rangers did what they always do and took control early.
Boyle quieted a raucous crowd 5:25 into the game at the end of a pretty breakout.
Derek Dorsett hit Boyle streaking across the Pittsburgh blue line and Boyle tapped it between his legs to Dominic Moore, who waited a split second before sending it back to Boyle.
The veteran forward's shot went between Fleury's legs for his second goal of the postseason.
In the other game
* At St. Paul, Minn., Patrick Kane scored 9:40 into overtime to lift Chicago over the Minnesota Wild, 2-1, clinching the series in six games and sending the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks into the Western Conference finals.
* The Washington Capitals will keep the AHL's Hershey Bears as their top minor league affiliate for 2014-15, the teams' 10th consecutive season together.
* NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a visit to Seattle to meet with local elected leaders to get an update on the status of a possible new arena.
Seattle has been a rumored landing spot for an NHL expansion franchise after the near move of the Phoenix Coyotes last summer. Bettman said earlier in the NHL playoffs that Seattle needs to get its arena situation settled before the league will consider a franchise there.