‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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Henrik Lundqvist finally got rewarded for his stellar net-minding. While it didn’t come in the form of pucks overflowing past opposing goaltender Braden Holtby, the Rangers buckled down when it mattered to force a winner-take-all Game 7.
After preserving the Rangers’ 1-0 shutout by notching 27 saves, the sensational Swede known as “The King of New York” departed his court to a chorus of deafening chants of “Hen-rik, Hen-rik.”
UNFLAPPABLE LUNDQVIST OUTDUELS HOLTBY
Sunday was a prime example of Lundqvist at his very best under immense pressure. Considering the lack of a finishing touch from Rangers forwards, Lundqvist needed to play perfectly between the pipes to keep the Rangers fighting for one more day — and that’s precisely what he did.
One of the newest Rangers is in awe of what he’s seeing from the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Derek Dorsett has only played five playoff games in a Rangers uniform, but he’s already in awe of what he’s seeing from the superhuman Lundqvist.
“The guy is unbelievable,” Dorsett said after Game 6. “Before I even got here, people would ask me who the best goalie was in the league. He’s always been in my top three since I’ve been in the league. He’s the backbone of this team and everyone can see it. The way he prepares for the games and everything — it’s unbelievable. It’s cool to see.”
Lundqvist’s focus is unparalleled among fellow NHL goaltenders. The chaos in front of his net in the third period reached a level that makes most goalies buckle. Lundqvist, though, is a different animal. He made 12 third-period saves, including a beautiful glove save on a rocketed Eric Fehr wrist-shot. He also battled away a last-second one-timer from John Carlson.
“I felt like this was going to be the type of game where there was one or two goals — tops,” Lundqvist stated. “My focus was on trying to shut it down. It definitely helps when the guys play the way they did in front of you.”
‘WRECKING BALL’ DORSETT MAKING UP FOR MISSED TIME
Dorsett made a unique mark in Game 6. After missing the remainder of the regular season and being thrown into the fire of the playoffs in Game 2, Dorsett enjoyed his finest game as a Ranger on Sunday.
The Saskatchewan native threw his body around like a wrecking ball all game and the Garden crowd was very appreciative of Dorsett’s efforts. Rangers fans tend to take a shine to players that play larger than their size. He’s only listed at 5-foot-11, but that doesn’t stop him from being an intimidator, agitator and force in the checking game.
Ex-Columbus teammate Derick Brassard noticed how hard Dorsett was working to get back into the lineup, and he thinks that Dorsett is rounding into his best play at a crucial stage in the first round.
“Derek missed 11 weeks of hockey and sometimes it takes a little while to get your legs or your momentum back,” Brassard said of Dorsett. “When he was hurt, he was working really hard. I think tonight, that was his best night. I think he had more legs. Every game he’s going to be better and he was huge for our team tonight.”
Dorsett and the Rangers’ third line clearly made their mark with their physicality and strong forechecking.
“He was great tonight,” linemate Brian Boyle said of Dorsett’s nasty play. “Not only that, the way he was forchecking — we made some plays, we had some chances. We had some fun today. I think our line did a pretty good job.”
BRASSARD CONTINUES HOT STREAK
Unsurprisingly, it was Brassard who scored the lone goal of the contest. While other key Rangers have failed to answer the bell, Brassard continues to be the most reliable scorer on a goal-starved Rangers team.
His second-period windup from the point took a deflection off Capitals defenseman Steve Olesky and found eyes past Holtby.
Brassard has two goals and five assists through six playoff games as a Ranger, and is riding a four-game point streak into Game 7.
CAPS CRY FOUL OVER DORSETT
Dorsett and the Rangers clearly got under the skin of the Caps, and Dorsett was accused of diving and slew-footing defenseman Mike Green by Holtby when he spoke with the Washington media.
“That’s a play that should be reviewed,” Holtby said of Dorsett’s questionable play on Green. “It’s only because Greenie’s world-class, one of the best skaters in the world, that he didn’t fall on his back there. It’s a dirty slew foot and we’re short-handed from it. That’s the only one I think any of us have a problem with.”
Yet, none of the Capitals made any reference to Green’s crosscheck to the mouth of Dorsett after the alleged slew foot.
It all boiled over after the final horn sounded as a massive scrum developed along the corner boards. Alex Ovechkin got Ryan Callahan into a headlock while trying to take shots at the Rangers’ captain, while Ryan McDonagh was face-washed by Mike Ribeiro. Meanwhile, Derek Stepan wrestled Carlson down to the ice.
The nastiness of Game 6 is likely to carry over to the all-deciding Game 7 in Washington on Monday night, and the Capitals will be looking to exact revenge for the bitterness of Game 6.
PRESSURE MOUNTING FOR CAPS
The Capitals are clearly feeling the pressure. After losing Game 6, center Nicklas Backstrom shattered his stick while walking toward the Capitals’ locker room, and defenseman Jack Hillen yelled, “Stay classy, New York,” while leaving the ice.
While the Rangers remained a cool group inside their locker room after Game 6, the Capitals were clearly frustrated by their own play and pointed fingers at the alleged dirtiness of the Rangers.
IF YOU WANT BLOOD, YOU’VE GOT IT!
It’s all setting up for a classic Game 7, as there’s little time for either team to extinguish the emotions of Game 6 as the penultimate game of the series gets under way at 8 p.m. on Monday night.
If there’s a soundtrack that would go along perfectly with the action set to unfold in Game 7, it would be AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It.)”
That’s what Game 7 is going it be. It’s going to be a high-charged and nasty affair with players on both sides paying the physical toll required with everything on the line. In other words, it’s going to be old-school hockey!
You can follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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