The New York Rangers shake hands with the Ottawa Senators after Game 7. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
SENATORS/RANGERS, GAME 7: RANGERS 2, SENATORS 1 (RANGERS WIN SERIES 4-3)
THN’s Take: Now that’s more like it. Less than 24 hours after a Game 7 that featured drama but little quality hockey, the Rangers and Senators treated us both right from puck drop.
It was a great end to a great series, one that should have both teams excited – for different reasons of course.
For the Rangers it’s a date with the Capitals in Round 2 and a chance to slay a recent playoff demon: it’s been Washington that’s knocked New York out of the playoffs in each of their past two appearances.
What can the Blueshirts take away from this series? First and foremost a lesson not to take a lower opponent lightly. The Senators were clearly the better team in four, arguably five, of the seven games in this series and if not for the heroics of the man whose name the MSG crowd chanted after the final whistle (Henrik Lundqvist, for those of you just joining us), this easily could have been one-and-done for the Eastern Conference-leading squad.
Secondly, the tying goal in Game 2 and the onslaught carried out in the New York end in the final minutes of this game should have the Rangers reconsidering their bend-but-don’t-break philosophy to winding down the clock. The Rangers are best when they pressure – as proven by the two goals, both of which were results of defensemen joining the attack – and look extremely vulnerable when they let the game come to them. The Capitals have more weapons with which to make New York pay should that continue to be their approach.
For the Senators, taking this series to seven games is another indication of just how much farther ahead in their rebuild than anyone expected. A team that wasn’t expected to even make the post season push the No. 1 seed to the brink and it was the youngster doing the heavy lifting most of the way. There’s a whole lot to like about this team in the near future.
1. Henrik Lundqvist – He’s been somewhat lost among all the talk about the performances of Jonathan Quick in L.A. and Mike Smith in Phoenix, but it’s the ‘King’ who makes the Rangers the odd-on favorites to come out of the East.
2. Marc Staal – After a regular season marred by a concussion and a kid-gloves return, Staal sure looks to be back on the track that had him pegged as a premier all-around defenseman. His nearly 25 minutes of ice time lead all skaters by a good chunk and his opening goal really tilted the game back in New York’s favor after the Senators’ strong start.
3. Daniel Alfredsson – Have we seen the last of the Sens captain? If so, he went out with a bang…literally. The 39-year-old was on a mission throughout, banging bodies and puck-hunting in all zones. And his rocket one-timer for Ottawa’s lone goal was as good as it gets.
The Black Hole: Truly no one stood out as the goat in an enthralling game, but we’ll hang it on Nick Foligno only for his turnover outside just outside the blueline that led to the opening goal.
- Edward Fraser
DEVILS/PANTHERS, GAME 7: DEVILS 3, PANTHERS 2 (2OT) (DEVILS WIN SERIES 4-3)
THN’s Take: Of course it happened this way. After the wild and crazy first round we had, it’s fitting the last game would go into not one, but two overtime periods. It saw a furious comeback, a rookie standout and a little goalie interference controversy.
Quite simply, this was a fantastic back-and-forth hockey game and a great way to end Round 1.
The Panthers became a different team every time they felt desperation set in this series. That’s a great trait when you’re trailing and it benefitted Florida more than once in these seven games. But the Panthers didn’t have the same jump or desperate feel at any point in either overtime period as they had in the third period, easily their best of the game.
That’s not to say they didn’t put up a fight – Florida had a glorious chance to win on Scottie Upshall’s shot and John Madden's net-front battle. But New Jersey was creating more of those “oohh” opportunities that bring you to the edge of your seat.
Heading to Round 2, the Devils have to be considered underdogs. Martin Brodeur will be under fire against a Philadelphia Flyers offense that is in mid-season form. Compounding the problem is the play of Ilya Kovalchuk. His health has been in question the past few games and his complete lack of explosiveness in Game 7 makes it hard to deny. Kovalchuk still produced points and opportunities against the Panthers and remains a dangerous offensive threat because of his shot, but his speed is needed to counter Philly’s forwards.
1. Adam Henrique – The Calder finalist looked like a seasoned vet in Game 7, scoring the first and last goals and leading the charge on offense.
2. Martin Brodeur – The all-time great turned aside 43 shots, including great chances in overtime by Upshall and John Madden.
3. Stephen Weiss – He's suffered with the Panthers his whole career and he left everything on the ice in Game 7. (Honorable mention to John Madden for playing, and playing well, after having his nose destroyed.)
The Black Hole: Tomas Fleischmann needed to be a factor on offense like Kris Versteeg and Weiss were. One goal was the difference in this game, so Fleischmann’s lack of opportunities was indirectly the difference.
- Rory Boylen