Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Rangers advance to Eastern Conference semifinals

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NEW YORK, N.Y. -- It took seven games, but the top-seeded New York Rangers finally ousted the eighth-seeded Ottawa Senators.

Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi scored second-period goals and the Blueshirts withstood a furious third-period flurry as the Rangers defeated Ottawa 2-1 in Thursday night's win-or-go-home Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

The win sends the Rangers on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Capitals, marking the first time since 2008 that the Rangers have advanced to the playoffs' second round.

Daniel Alfredsson scored the Senators' lone goal on a power play in the second period, and Henrik Lundqvist was named the game's first star with 26 saves.

"I kept telling myself they're going to come, probably in the last five minutes and they did and you know we were everywhere, diving, and trying to block shots like we've been doing all year, and just a great team effort, like you said," said Lundqvist. "I think it's important we enjoy this night, but then we have to regroup and get ready for the next one."

Thursday's win capped a tight-checking seven-game series against an opponent that squeaked into the playoffs in the final days of the regular season. The Senators finished the 2012 campaign with 92 points, 17 behind the Rangers' conference-leading total of 109.

But Ottawa took a 3 games to 2 lead in the series, forcing the Rangers to get a must-win Game 6 victory on the road before returning the the Garden for Thursday's winner-take-all Game 7.

The Rangers are undefeated in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden, having won three previous Game 7s in the 1992 and 1994 post-seasons.

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