It looks like the Hollywood scriptwriters are moonlighting for the NHL in the Stanley Cup playoffs. At least that what it seemed like tonight with two phenomenal game sevens between the Capitals and the Rangers and the Devils and the Hurricanes.
In Washington the Capitals looked tentative through the first two periods of the game, and the Rangers were the better team through 40 minutes. However, after a lucky goal by Semin in the first period tied the game 1-1 the Rangers' inability to score goals continued to haunt them. The Caps hung around and the game stayed tied until late in the 3rd period, setting the table for late game heroics by veteran Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov rushed down the right wing, cut back and whipped a wrist shot high short side over Henrik Lundqvist's glove. Ovechkin, who looked listless most of the night, summoned all his energy to come flying across the ice and take Fedorov down with a bear hug. (Obviously he never saw the footage of Radulov taking out Jason Arnott last year.) 🙂 The Caps hung on for the 2-1 win and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1998. The win, coupled with Carolina's victory in New Jersey, sets up a dream match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby, Malkin and Gonchar vs. Ovechkin, Semin and Green. Buckle your seat belts! This could be the best playoff series in years.
In the other game 7 in New Jersey the action was even better. The two teams went toe to toe right from the drop of the puck, and the Devils took advantage of their home ice to head into the third period nursing a 3-2 lead. Brodeur looked on top of his game, and with their experience and stifling defensive system the Devils looked like they would hold on to advance to round two of the playoffs. Well, perhaps the hockey gods wanted to see a Pittsburgh/Washington series as much as the rest of us because they intervened with 1:20 left in the third period. After a strong cycle, Carolina finally managed to open up the back door play, and Jussi Jokinen snapped the puck under a stretching Brodeur to tie the game. Before the Devils could recover from the shock Eric Staal came flying down the wing and snapped the puck far side past Brodeur with just 32 seconds left to give Carolina a 4-3 lead. Carolina managed to overcome a desperate Devils flurry to win the game and advance to the second round. All of the Devils have to be absolutely crushed by the way the game played out, but perhaps none more so than John Madden who twice led two on ones late in the third and both times fired the puck right into Cam Ward's chest. Had he managed to score on either one it is almost certain the Devils would be celebrating right now instead of booking tee times.
With the victory Carolina will advance to play the Boston Bruins. The Bs were the Beast of the East all season and rolled easily over Montreal. However, Carolina has been hot down the stretch and have a number of veterans from their 2006 Stanley Cup run. Should be a hell of a series folks. Round two action starts Thursday night. Can't wait!