Rangers vs. Penguins Game 7 recap: Lundqvist stands tall as New York advances to the Eastern Conference Finals

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers completed the first 3-1 series comeback in franchise history, taking down the Penguins in dramatic fashion in Game 7.

If the Rangers power play was supposed to be what held this team back, it can officially be said it's pushed them into the Eastern Conference Finals.

Oh, and that Henrik Lundqvist guy helped, too.

The Rangers took an early lead, and then broke a 1-1 tie in the second period on a power play goal before Lundqvist took over and backstopped the Rangers into the next round.

Both teams got off to a timid start, before a strong effort from the Rangers' fourth line led to the game's first goal. A Brian Boyle shot block got the puck going the other way, before Boyle and Moore executed a give-and-go, with Boyle slipping it between the legs of Marc-Andre Fleury's to give New York a 1-0 lead just over five minutes in.

Most of the first period—especially after the goal—was played in the Rangers' end, as the Penguins fired 10 shots on net, but Lundqvist stood tall and answered them all.

In the middle frame, it was much of the same, as an aggressive Pittsburgh side spent a lot of time in the Rangers' zone. It led to a lot of Rangers chasing, and the Penguins finally broke through off a point shot. Olli Maatta had the initial attempt, and the rebound kicked right out to Jussi Jokinen, who potted his fourth goal of the series to the tie score.

The momentum shifted a bit back to the Rangers, with New York's most consistent line of Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot, and Derick Brassard getting in on the forecheck, and eventually drawing a penalty.

On the ensuing man-advantage, a Pittsburgh shorthanded chance led to a Rangers odd-man rush up ice. After Derek Stepan threw the puck on goal, Martin St. Louis was able to send a nifty backhand pass to Brad Richards, who beat Fleury from the slot to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

Lundqvist led the way from there. With the Rangers playing a more defensive game, and trapping the neutral zone, it was the Penguins controlling the puck for the last half hour of the game. Sans a St. Louis miss on a 2-on-1, and it was the Penguins creating all the quality chances and taking all the shots.

But Lundqvist, who improved his record to 5-1 in Game 7's with the victory on the strength of 35 saves, would not be beat. He stood his ground late as the Penguins threw bodies and traffic toward the crease, including stopping a pair of deflections from Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz to keep the Penguins' deficit at a goal.

In Game 7's, a team's top players need to step up, but contributions also need to come from other places. Boyle and Moore not only continued their stellar defensive play, limiting the Sidney Crosby line all night, but also found the back of the net. (In the Rangers' last three Game 7's, all of which they've won, the first player to score in each was Arron Asham, Daniel Carcillo, and Boyle, respectively.)

The power play, which has been much maligned and analyzed, scored its third goal of the series, and obviously one that couldn't have come at a bigger time. Chris Kreider and Stepan were both very effective in the neutral zone, and at disrupting the Penguins transition game.

And then there's Henrik Lundqvist, who's name can't be mentioned enough. While the Rangers are certainly a different team under Alain Vigneault, Lundqvist always needed to be and was the Rangers best player, and the best player on the ice when it came down to it.

The Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in the last three years. They await the winner of the Bruins and Canadiens series, which will play its decisive Game 7 Wednesday night.

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