On This Date, May 13, 2014: Rangers Overcome 3-1 Series Deficit Over Penguins

Sean Hartnett
May 13, 2020 - 12:46 pm
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A 3-1 series deficit is quite a hill to climb. Even more so against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that possessed the league’s top-ranked power play, a fifth-ranked penalty kill, the elite netminding of Marc-Andre Fleury and imposing firepower of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal.

For the Rangers to overturn the series, it was going to take near-perfect execution for three consecutive games. Ordinary teams would have wilted under these demands – but the 2014 Rangers were no ordinary team.

The Blueshirts banded together and their bonds grew tighter amid tragedy. Veteran leader Martin St. Louis opted to play through the grief of losing his mother to a sudden heart attack. Having scored the game’s opening goal in an emotional 3-1 Mother’s Day Game 6 win, St. Louis saluted his teammates when he returned to the home dressing room.

“Great win boys,” St. Louis said. “You’ve got to picture it. You’ve got to believe it, you got to see in your head that everything is possible. Everybody pushed tonight. You guys have been nothing but unbelievable to me these past couple days. I’ll never forget that. This is a team win. I couldn’t be prouder to be a (expletive) New York Ranger with you guys. Thank you very much.”

This team grew stronger through on-ice and off-ice adversity. St. Louis provided inspiration and the know-how of a wise playoff performer. Former Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards assumed the vacant captain’s role without anyone needing to stitch a letter ‘C’ on his chest. Ryan McDonagh was the do-it-all franchise defenseman. Anton Stralman was the unsung hero, turned indispensable defensive juggernaut. Dan Girardi was the all-for-the-cause, black and blue ironman.

Rick Nash was the prototypical two-way forward whose impact went far beyond goals and assists. Derick Brassard became known as “Big Game Brass” for his clutch heroics. Derek Stepan was putting together his finest playoff campaign. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider were speedsters who could change a game in an instant.

Mats Zuccarello was the feisty sparkplug who played a much large game than his 5-foot-8 frame, while striking up excellent chemistry with linemates Brassard and Benoit Pouliot. Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett formed a possession-dominant fourth line. Marc Staal returned to a model of reliability after recovering from a string of serious injuries. John Moore’s athleticism and Kevin Klein’s stay-at-home mentality complimented each other nicely on the third defensive pair.

The Rangers had all the ingredients of a winner. Yet, no piece of the puzzle was more important than rock-solid goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. For the Rangers to win Game 7 in a tough road building in Pittsburgh, the Swede who summoned his best in elimination games would again need to be at his very best.

On this day in 2014, Lundqvist saved 35 of 36 shots to propel the Rangers to an unforgettable Game 7 win.

The fourth line of Boyle, Moore and Dorsett turned an early defensive zone face-off against the Crosby line into a spirited charge to the other end of the rink. The Rangers’ depth forwards outraced the Penguins and Boyle’s goal gave the Blueshirts a 1-0 advantage at 5:25 of the first period.

Jussi Jokinen evened the contest at 4:15 of the second period – but it wasn’t long before the Rangers regained their lead. Brad Richards netted a power play goal minutes later as the Blueshirts swarmed Fleury’s net.

The scoreboard read 2-1 Rangers before the game’s halfway point. From then on, it was Lundqvist Time. He denied Neal with a doorstep robbery late in the second period. Pittsburgh piled on the pressure, especially in the final five minutes. Lundqvist batted away swarm after swarm in a virtuoso performance.

“When they took their game to another level, our goaltender took his game to another level,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “He was able to stop a barrage of opportunities, and he was the difference in the game.”

In all, Lundqvist saved 102 of 105 shots in Games 5, 6 and 7 to set up an Eastern Conference Final clash with the Montreal Canadiens. It was a record-breaking victory for Lundqvist, who stood alone among all-time goaltenders with five straight Game 7 wins.

Oh and about that vaunted Penguins’ power play? Lundqvist and the Rangers masterfully shut down Pittsburgh’s man-advantage specialists. The Penguins’ power play finished the series a woeful 1-for-20.

Once again, “King Henrik” proved why he reigns supreme under the Game 7 spotlight.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey