SPORTS

NHL playoffs: 4 stories from last night

05/14/2015 01:46 EDT | Updated 05/13/2016 05:59 EDT
The New York Rangers made history Wednesday night, becoming the first team to win a seven-game series in back-to-back years after trailing 3-1, and move on to face Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final.

Here are four stories from the Rangers' Game 7 win:

Stepan-up when needed

Through three periods of Game 7, New York Rangers centre Derek Stepan was having a rather quiet night with a minus-1 rating, one blocked shot and six faceoff wins in 25 attempts. Then, in overtime, a blue-line blast from teammate Dan Girardi deflected off Washington defenceman Brooks Orpik and the puck found the stick of an open Stepan, who fired a shot past goalie Braden Holtby for his third game-winning goal in 73 NHL playoffs games.

Stepan picked up two assists in Game 5 and another in Game 6 but hadn't scored since a series-clinching victory over Pittsburgh on April 24. The 24-year-old now has 13 goals, including three game winners, and 37 points in five post-seasons.

All hail King Henrik

Is Henrik Lundqvist ready for another run to the Stanley Cup finals? If so, he'll be better rested than a year ago and hard to beat should an upcoming Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay reach a seventh and deciding game. Lundqvist is the only goalie to ever win six straight Game 7s, improving his record to 6-1. He has also won 10 games in a row on home ice when the Rangers are facing elimination.

For his career, Lundqvist boasts a 0.97 goals-against average and .960 save percentage with one shutout in the winner-take-all contests. Among King Henrik's 35 saves on Wednesday was a glove stop against checking forward Jay Beagle.

Lundqvist has a scintillating 1.60 GAA and .944 save percentage in these playoffs, having surrendered two or fewer goals in 10 of 12 games.

Alex The Gr8 … in 1st period

Capitals' star winger Alex Ovechkin came out flying in Game 7, registering three hits in the first period along with two shots in six minutes six seconds of ice time. He was the only Washington player to beat New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist on this night, receiving a behind-the-back pass from Marcus Johansson that found its way by defenceman Ryan McDonagh and snapping a shot off Lundqvist's glove for a 1-0 Capitals lead at the 12:50 mark.

Playing in his ninth Game 7, Ovie entered Wednesday's tilt with no goals in his previous five Game 7s. But his fifth goal of these playoffs and first since Game 2 of the series gave the Capitals life.

Feeling Green

If Ovechkin's first-period goal sparked Washington, three straight penalties, including a pair by defenceman Mike Green early in the second, managed to suck the life out of the squad. New York made the veteran rearguard pay for his second penalty, a cross-checking minor against fellow defenceman Dan Girardi.

Rookie right-winger Kevin Hayes, who scored 17 goals in 79 regular-season games, beat Washington goalie Braden Holtby when he redirected a J.T. Miller pass.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hayes became the first Rangers rookie to score in Game 7 since Muzz Patrick in 1939. When Hayes scored, the New York bench went wild.

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