Bring on the Devils. Finally.
The Rangers endured their second consecutive tooth-and-nail series, needing seven games again to vanquish the Washington Capitals with a typically tight 2-1 victory Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The Eastern Conference champs in the regular season also needed the full allotment of games to dismiss No. 8 seed Ottawa in the opening round.
"I think it says a lot," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said after making 22 saves in Game 7. "You can look at it in so many ways. You come back (in Game 5), had a chance to win it last game. So you could say we felt a lot of pressure, but we saw a great opportunity for us to win this game at home.
"It's a great building to play in a Game 7 again. It's so exciting to be out there and hear the fans in the last couple of seconds and you realize it's over and you move on. It's just a great feeling. You've been working so hard for a long time now to reach it, and we're getting closer, but there's still a lot of work ahead of us."
Next comes a matchup against the cross-river rival New Jersey Devils, and a marquee goaltender duel between Lundqvist -- a Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy finalist this year who is looking for his first Stanley Cup title -- and Martin Brodeur, a three-time champion and the winningest goalie in NHL history.
"They're a great team. We face them a lot, so we know what to expect," Lundqvist said.
Even after his team gutted out its second straight Game 7 win -- on goals by Brad Richards 1:32 into the game and Michael Del Zotto midway through the third period -- coach John Tortorella was typically surly when the topic turned to the next round against New Jersey. The series begins Monday in New York.
"You guys can make your stories about Devils-Rangers. Don't include me in it," Tortorella told reporters Saturday night. "We're going to worry about the New York Rangers."
The Blueshirts improved to 5-0 in their history in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden, also including the previous round against the Senators. New York also won at home in seventh games in the Eastern Conference final (over New Jersey) and in the Stanley Cup final (vs. Vancouver) in 1994, its most recent championship season.
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