Rangers' depth pays off in Game 7 against Flyers

New York Rangers centre Brian Boyle knocks Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen to the ice...

New York Rangers centre Brian Boyle knocks Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen to the ice in Game 7 on April 30. (ADAM HUNGER/USA Today)

Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

A renovated Madison Square Garden now houses a new-look Rangers team.

There will always be Big Apple flash to this club, with sharp-angle, sharp-dressed Henrik Lundqvist and the annual injection of star power, this year coming in the Martin St. Louis trade. But as much as snake-bit Rick Nash had a better game and St. Louis and Brad Richards had chances, Wednesday’s 2-1 Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers belonged in large part to unlikely foot soldiers such as Benoit Pouliot, Daniel Carcillo, Dominic Moore and Anton Stralman.

That’s why the Rangers are going on to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in an Eastern semifinal and why their tenacity gives them a decent chance to go far in that series.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, in his first Game 7 test since the Vancouver Canucks faded in the 2011 Cup final, came out ahead, as he has in this season’s job switch with John Tortorella, who will be fired on Thursday according to a TSN report. Vigneault found the right lineup balance after 89 games. His Rangers bounced back from a horrible game in Philly on Tuesday, composing themselves on the train ride home to stake out a two-goal lead. When they did have hiccups in the third period, Lundqvist’s historic Game 7 domination kicked in.

Now Lundqvist has to contend with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Pittsburgh’s record of 4-0 against New York in playoffs. It’s a combined won-loss of 16-4, but only one of those series was during Lundqvist’s watch, while he’s been able to get his team past the first round in three consecutive seasons.

DRAFT DOUBLE

The second round will be a reunion of sorts for Crosby and Pouliot. Nine drafts ago, when Crosby was the heralded No. 1 pick, followed by Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson and Carey Price (fifth), Pouliot was an under-the-radar fourth selection by Minnesota, which farmed him out in parts of his first three seasons as he found his niche.

He’s come back to prominence via Montreal, Boston and Tampa Bay.

SEVEN-UP

TSN in-house ref Kerry Fraser opined before Wednesday’s trio grande of Game 7s that the deciding match of a series is often the easiest to officiate. Teams stick to hockey and avoid scrums. That was true of New York-Philly, with 63 combined hits, but just three penalties, one for too many men.

But the tone changed in Denver, where there was more posturing on both sides, six minors called halfway through the Avalanche-Wild game, with Nick Holden’s controversial goal during a pile-up, Matt Duchene losing a goal on his netminder interference call and nearly getting whistled on another when he bumped Darcy Kuemper. In San Jose, there were seven minors through 40 minutes, with the Kings scoring on the power play.

OVIE AND OUT

George McPhee’s farewell presser as GM of the Washington Capitals had some regrets, but no bashing of Alex Ovechkin.

“It was a difficult year,” said McPhee, who was sent packing along with coach Adam Oates. “We didn’t play anywhere near what we were capable of, but we got 90 points. Just a little improvement and it’s a 100-point team next year and probably a lot more.”

On what role Ovechkin did or didn’t play at crunch time through the years, McPhee said: “I don’t want to be negative about anything. You raise different people’s names and say this person isn’t doing this or that, I’d like to pass on that kind of stuff.”

Asked if Ovechkin were still a primary player in the league, McPhee replied “Yes, and if you’re asking me if we could win with him, I believed we could.”

ICE CHIPS

Lindy Ruff thought his Dallas Stars had the Anaheim Ducks on the run, but it was the Texans cleaning out their lockers on Tuesday. “What’s painful about this playoff is I don’t think we got beat, I think we beat ourselves,” Ruff told reporters. “I think we were the better team in more periods, we controlled more play and we skated better in more periods than they did. But in the end, we beat ourselves, and that’s painful for a coach.” ... Meanwhile, Blues GM Doug Armstrong will spend part of his summer wondering about how many more upgrades are needed after his supposed playoff-ready team had its big names falter while Chicago’s rose to the ocassion with the Blues up 2-0 in the series. “There’s a reason they’re Cup champions a couple of times over the last four years,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “When the temperature went from a simmer to a boil, their best players elevated their game. With all due respect, when Barret Jackman and Chris Porter are tied for third in scoring, you need more from other people.” ... After dropping Barry Trotz’s one-time Nashville assistant Peter Horachek as their interim head man, the Florida Panthers have a shot at hiring Trotz himself. “Barry is a hell of a coach,” Florida GM Dale Tallon conceded to the Miami Herald. Horachek would not be sore if his old mentor got the Panthers’ gig. “I think he’ll be quickly scooped up,” Horachek said. “If he was given the opportunity and thought (Florida) was best for him, I would wish him all the best in that.” ... Also in the Panthers mix, former division rival Peter Laviolette and possibly, last year’s state rival Guy Boucher, ex of Tampa Bay ... Any wonder the Wings can’t decide on a No. 2 goalie between Jonas Gustavsson’s injury-plagued past and the merits of young Petr Mrazek? Gustavsson’s latest sick bay report was three separate groin injuries (out 18 games total), as well as neck and shoulder problems (five games) ... One crown has been awarded in pro hockey already. The Yuri Gagarin Cup for the championship of the KHL went to Mike Keenan and Metallurg Magnitogorsk on Wednesday when they beat Prague Lev in a seventh game. The win came 20 years after Keenan won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers ... Two former Maple Leafs were in Wednesday’s KHL final, centre Tim Brent for Metallurg, defenceman Ryan O’Byrne for Prague.

 

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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