Rangers beat Capitals 2-1 in Game 7
By IRA PODELL
NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers advanced to the NHL Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday, with Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto scoring and Henrik Lundqvist making 22 saves.
Richards scored less than two minutes in, and Del Zotto doubled the lead in the third period to help the top-seeded Rangers improve to 5-0 in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden.
Next is a Conference decider against local rival, the New Jersey Devils, who the Rangers beat at the same stage in 1994 en route to their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years.
That series will open Monday in New York.
New York and Washington alternated wins and losses from Game 1 on, and the Rangers managed to continue the pattern, though this one wasn't easy.
Just 38 seconds after Del Zotto made it 2-0, Roman Hamrlik sent a shot off New York forward Derek Stepan which fluttered past Lundqvist and cut the deficit to 2-1.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby played well in his second career Game 7, making 29 saves, but it was yet another heartbreaker for Washington - six of its seven losses in this postseason were by one goal.
New York also won its opening playoff series, against Ottawa, in seven games. History is not on the Rangers' side. Since playoff expansion, no club has played 14 games in the first two rounds and went on to capture the Cup.
New York played a very disciplined game, taking only one penalty, for delay of game in the third period. The Rangers' power play did nothing on its two chances, but keeping Washington's man-advantage unit off the ice helped secure this win.
The Capitals tried to pull Holtby for an extra skater with 1:22 left in the game, but he had to scramble back to cover the vacated net before he ever got to the bench.
He finally got off the ice, and the Capitals pressured in the Rangers' end. The puck was stuck in the corner when the final seconds ran out, and Lundqvist thrust both arms in the air as streamers poured down from the ceiling.
Updated May 12, 2012