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Rangers play on thanks to Lundqvist, youth and defense in game 7

By Bryan Fischer | Blogger

NEW YORK -- More is the operative word in a game 7. More pressure, more energy, more noise, more of just about everything. The tape is a little tighter, the skates a little sharper and even the ushers around the arena steal a few more glances at the ice.

Nerves, there were certainly more of those among the crowd at Madison Square Garden late Thursday night but in the first game 7 in the world's most famous arena since the Stanley Cup was last raised in New York, the Rangers held on for dear life against a constant attack from the Ottawa Senators to take their first round series with a 2-1 win that more than lived up to its billing.

"That was a hard series against a very good team," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. "Both teams went toe-to-toe in all areas of the game. Sometimes the first round is the hardest round - and that's all this is, one round. I'm very happy with the group and they should be very proud of themselves for about an hour."

Unlike the team's thrilling comeback on Monday that sent both squads to the States - three goals in the second period in a win - New York jumped out to an early lead thanks to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi's goals in second. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist turned back 26 shots on the night and was excellent when Ottawa moved in close and threatened.

"I didn't think we were frantic, I thought we were under control and playing in their end," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "But we couldn't get the puck by (Henrik Lundqvist). I thought we had some great opportunities and Lundqvist played real good for them. He had to stop the puck four or five times in the last few minutes there.

"They deserved to win this series and deserved to move on."

The win keeps New York's perfect record at home in the deciding game 7 and prevented the team from becoming yet another upset victim in a first round full of them. The top seed in the East after the second-most successful regular season in club history, youth and defense managed to keep the Rangers in the series and allow them to eventually move on.

"I really felt like we were going to go into Ottawa and win," Tortorella said. "I'm not saying that because we did it. I told our guys all year long, this is a good group and they've been resilient all year long. All the distractions that started at the beginning of the year all the way to now, just set you up for a foundation and we'll lean on this as we get to the next round."

The Senators moved to 0-5 in Game 7's and suffered only their second loss on the Rangers home ice all year.

"They're a talented hockey club," Tortorella continued. "That staff has done a great job there and we went toe-to-toe. The thing people say when you lose a game is, 'You got out worked," but that isn't true. That didn't happen this series. I think the team that made a couple of extra big plays in the game wins the game. That's how close this series was."

While Lundqvist was undoubtedly the star of the show with his acrobatics in front of the net, the man who recently made the Sports Illustrated cover and had a glowing profile that labeled him the 'King of New York' owes an assist to rookie Chris Kreider for giving him some room to work with. After a scoreless first, Kreider knocked the puck away from an Ottawa attack with Ryan Callahan swiping it and getting it to Derek Stepan for a between the legs pass to Staal who scored the opening goal.

Tortorella had no issues playing any of his young players, even in the waning moments of the game. Kreider, who is just 20 and won the NCAA championship earlier this month, was one of several put at ease by veterans who spoke in the locker room before the game about what it was like playing in a game 7.

"It's a tremendous experience. It's hard to explain, people want to play in those games," the head coach said. "Do you want to win a series 4-0? Sure, you want to win the games and get out of them. But when you get in this type of situation, it's a great opportunity because you don't play many of these."

"To get these types of situations under your belt, and have some success in this first round, I think it will bode very well for our young guys."

Ottawa's thoughts after the game dwelled not on the loss but 39-year-old Daniel Alfredsson, who scored just inside the blue line in the second period for the Senators only goal, as Thursday night could be the last of a 16-season career in which he held franchise records or games played, goals, assists and points.

"That's up to Daniel. I know we had a lot of fun and if you can have a lot of fun playing hockey, you usually don't stop," MacLean said. "I can't speak for them but he's going to have to make a decision for himself and he'll make the right one."

This was a night for the Rangers and for New York itself however, as fans celebrated by serenading Lundqvist with chants of "Henri! Henri! Henri" following the game.

"It's just two teams going at it and we found a way," said Tortorella.

Found a way to play some more of course.

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