The New York Rangers still need to win eight more playoff games to win a Stanley Cup this year, but Henrik Lundqvist already shook a monkey off his back. The Washington Capitals bounced his Rangers out of the playoffs twice before – once in a Game 7, then last year – so Lundqvist told Andrew Gross and others that it probably added a little extra urgency.
“Losing two series against them, it felt like we needed to get this one,” Lundqvist said.
(One cannot help but wonder if Lundqvist used the wrong pronoun and instead should have said “I needed to get this one.”)
With this win, the Rangers are now 5-0 in franchise history when they play Game 7 contests at Madison Square Garden. John Tortorella might have captured the vibe best – and as only he can – by calling home ice advantage “garbage” until that deciding contest comes along. Torts admitted that having those matches at MSG made a difference.
Brian Boyle described how it felt to play a Game 7 at MSG (and most importantly, win).
“It’s an accomplishment,” Boyle said. “We’re not satisfied yet. But it was a lot of fun to play in that one.”
If the Rangers keep winning, then the fun’s only about to begin.
Well, that was quite a third period.
For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.
Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.
The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.
Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.
And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.
Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)
The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.
Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.
The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.
The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.
As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.
On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.
From CSN Mid-Atlantic:
The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.
He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.
The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.
There was no call on the play.
Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.
Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.
Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.
That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus: