Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 4/26/12

And the magical season lives on.

As stated in the pregame, it was only proper that this blow-for-blow Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators was decided by a Game 7. As John Tortorella said in his postgame presser, the first round can sometimes be the most difficult. The Senators, although seeded eighth, surely gave the Rangers a difficult time over the course of the past two weeks, and prolonged the series for a lengthier amount of time than was expected. But it was the Rangers, in the end, prevailing through adversity, coming back from being down, 3 games to 2, and now moving on to the semifinals for the first time since 2008.

Yes, typical 2011-12 New York Rangers fashion. 

The vibe in Madison Square Garden was breathtaking as the puck dropped to begin this game, and the Rangers certainly fed off of that energy for at least the opening ten minutes. They were breathing down the throats of the Senators in the offensive zone, forcing goaltender Craig Anderson to make save after save early. The first line of Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik were especially buzzing, coming within inches of putting the game's first goal to the back of the net each time they stepped onto the ice. They weren't able to put a tally up on the board in the first period, though, nor was any other Ranger or Senator for that matter, so to the locker rooms the teams went in a scoreless tie during the intermission.

In the middle stanza, however, the game broke open on both sides and suddenly the goals began to come. The first came at 4:46 of the second, when Derek Stepan made a beautiful cross-slot feed to Marc Staal for a one-timer goal to give the Rangers a 1-0 advantage. The play was started by Ryan Callahan along the boards, though, where he stopped an Ottawa clearing attempt to keep the puck in the zone. That's when Stepan swooped in and made the pass to Staalsie, which was yet another brilliant assist for Derek.

Less than five minutes later another defenseman tallied in the goal column for New York, as this time it was Dan Girardi sneaking in and burying a loose puck all alone in the slot. The Rangers had all men crashing the net on this specific play, which had both Ottawa defenseman preoccupied. That left an open slot for Girardi to easily walk in and roof the shot.

The Senators put up a goal late in the second period on Daniel Aflredsson's one-timed blast with the man advantage. It looked as if the shot slightly changed direction just prior to reaching Lundqvist, so there's a chance it may have clipped the skate of Anton Stralman in front. Either way, the Rangers held a 2-1 lead going into the third.

Girardi's goal would hold up to be the game-winner, but only after a full-court press from the Senators that had the Rangers on their heels in the third period. Que Henrik Lundqvist, because this is normally the time of the night which he shines the most. That he did, making 26 saves before the final buzzer, including some incredible kick stops in the final minutes when the Sens were fighting for their lives.

Hank and the Rangers held on, though, pinching the puck down in Ottawa's zone in the final seconds as an electric MSG rose to its feet screaming in joy.

Lundqvist was very deserving of the first start tonight, but I think right up there with him were Derek Stepand and Chris Kreider. I spoke just the other day of how important these two can be if they continue to gel the way they did in Game 6, and tonight they were even better than they were in Game 6. Stepan has the best vision on the team, no questions asked, and Kreider is without a doubt the fastest, even over Carl Hagelin. Those traits combined made this duo the most energetic for the Rangers and they were rewarded with plenty of ice time from coach Tortorella as a result.

Kreider is something to behold. The kid's confidence has taken enormous leaps since his Game 3 debut, and he's rapidly become one of the main attractions on this hockey club. Did you see him controlling the puck in the second period? Or when he was put out there in the final minutes to defend a one-goal lead in a Game 7? The Blueshirts have something very special on their hands here.

I also liked the defensive work by the third line tonight, consisting of Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust. Tortorella has a lot of trust in this trio when it comes time to lockdown defensively late in games, and we saw why tonight. This time of year is when Ruslan Fedotenko is his best - he led that line with some gutsy plays in his own zone.

Defensively, Marc Staal was a stud in this game. He most definitely looks like the Staalsie from last season, no matter what anyone says. He was the team's best blue-liner in this series if you ask me.

Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh also deserve an honorable mention. They did an excellent job against the Jason Spezza line all series.

So Game 7 is in the books and the Rangers are on to the semifinals where they will face the Washington Capitals. From my understanding, that series will begin as soon as Saturday, so we shall celebrate tonight's win for now but then quickly regain focus to oust Washington once and for all.

Believe.

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