Game Seven. Winner take all. Do or die.
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers squared off in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden with a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on the line. The two teams came out firing in the first period in a back-and-forth affair that featured a lot of odd-man rushes. The Flyers out-shot the Rangers 11-10 in the opening frame and it was every bit as close as the numbers suggest.
However, the second period was a totally different game – one the Flyers were hoping to avoid. New York came out after the first intermission and utterly dominated Philadelphia from the puck drop until the second intermission. The Rangers out-shot the Flyers 18-5 in the second period alone.
New York got on the board just 3:06 into the second period. After goaltender Steve Mason made a series of saves in close on the Rangers, Mats Zuccarello got to the loose puck and fed Dan Carcillo sneaking in behind Braydon Coburn on the far-side and Carcillo didn’t miss the one-timer to make it 1-0 Rangers.
Mason came up huge for the Flyers going post to post and making the first, second and third saves on all New York shots. He kept it a one-goal game for the longest time but it would be only a matter of time.
With the Flyers playing sloppy and showing a complete inability to play with the puck on their stick, the Rangers looked to take advantage. Derick Brassard found Benoit Pouliot for a snapshot that beat Mason and made it 2-0 Rangers heading into the locker rooms.
By all accounts, the Flyers were lucky the game was as close as it was heading into the third period and they had Mason to thank.
The beginning stages of the third period were a bit shaky until rookie forward Jason Akeson beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to cut the Rangers lead in half and get the Flyers on the board.
Following the goal, the Flyers came alive. They had a strong forecheck, started winning battles along the boards and winning races to loose pucks. In short, they looked like the team everyone expected to see in the first two periods.
Despite the numerous opportunities, the Flyers were unable to solve Lundqvist a second time as the Rangers eliminated the Flyers with a 2-1 victory.
The win moves the Rangers to 6-0 in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden and they have won each of their last four Game 7s overall. They will prepare to take on the Penguins on Friday night.
It was the first Game 7 loss for the Flyers since the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Philadelphia is now 9-7 all-time in Game 7 and 3-4 in Game 7 on the road. The Flyers are now forced to regroup and retool this summer with Stanley Cup hopes for 2014-15.
It was a wild, and sometimes bumpy, ride for the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers but they certainly made it fun all the way to the end.