Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Six

Lundqvist, Rangers complete comeback, knock Penguins out in Game 7

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On four occasions during this postseason, the New York Rangers saw their season at risk of ending with one loss. They answered the call all four times, including in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, advancing to the conference finals with a 2-1 win.

To put it mildly, many will merely focus on the Penguins watching a 3-1 series lead slip away. You’ll see plenty of that fallout on PHT tonight.

Still, it’s easy to dismiss the triumphs of a team like the Rangers considering the juicier story like the Penguins “choking.” Make no mistake about it, though, the Blueshirts have been fantastic with their backs against the wall in these playoffs; NBCSN flashed the telling stat that the Rangers hadn’t trailed against the Penguins since Game 4 of this series.

Plenty of players stepped up for the Rangers, but Henrik Lundqvist really cemented his legacy as a guy who somehow finds another level in the biggest games (even if his team hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup Final yet in his otherwise distinguished career). After all, the Penguins managed a 36-20 shot disparity in this do-or-die game.

The stupendous Swede limited opponents to one goal in each of his opponents’ four opportunities to eliminate the Rangers during these playoffs. Check out his work in greater detail:

vs. Pittsburgh:

Game 5: 36 out of 37 saves
Game 6: 31 out of 32 saves
Game 7: 35 out of 36 saves

vs. Philadelphia:

Game 7: 26 out of 27 saves

Lundqvist and the Rangers have won five Game 7 contests in a row.

While a visit from Mario Lemieux seemed to set Marc-Andre Fleury on the right path – despite a setback and a shaky bit of puckhandling here and there – it seems like it might have come too late for Sidney Crosby. The NHL’s far-and-away leading scorer failed to score a single point in three elimination opportunities against the Rangers.

Evgeni Malkin grabbed an assist on Tuesday and had a strong series, yet the two didn’t dominate enough collectively for the liking of many, prompting the posting of stats like these:

It’s easy to boil it all down to Crosby, Malkin and Fleury “not getting it done.” Plenty of people will.

That ignores great efforts by Lundqvist and turnarounds including the Rangers winning the special teams battle. After all the hand-wringing about New York’s man advantage struggles, the Rangers scored three power-play goals in this series while the Penguins only managed one.

Brad Richards’ PP goal stood as the winner:

Brian Boyle stood tall during many moments of Game 7, making some big plays and scoring the all-important first goal of this contest. The team who scored first won every contest in this series.

Whatever way you’d like to spin it, the Rangers are moving on to round three while the Penguins face another summer of questions, including what’s next for head coach Dan Bylsma:

As the Penguins ponder what’s next, the Rangers’ focus is simpler: they’ll await their next opponent as the Boston Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens in a Game 7 of their own on Wednesday.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…

Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 17:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.

Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.

Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins, Game 7

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning falls to the ice at the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Not much more to say than this:

GAME 7.

Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, but you can also catch the game online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

It’s been a ‘roller coaster’ — Pens, Bolts ready for Game 7

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay