PITTSBURGH – Alain Vigneault, who is in his first season as New York Rangers coach, had trouble finding the words to describe goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
“He’s OK,” Vigneault said finally with a small shake of his head.
Except that is, in Game 7s. In Game 7s, Lundqvist is virtually unbeatable.
Frustrating captain Sidney Crosby and the reeling Pittsburgh Penguins one final time, Lundqvist made 35 saves to lift New York to a 2-1 victory Tuesday night and give his team a berth in the Eastern Conference finals.
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“I was so tired at the end,” Lundqvist said after setting a league record for goalies with his fifth straight Game 7 victory. “But it was just a great feeling when you know it’s a done deal and we did it.”
Brian Boyle and Brad Richards scored for New York, which rallied from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in the franchise’s 88-year history.
The Rangers did it behind Lundqvist, who stopped 102 of the final 105 shots he faced over the final three games. The three-time All-Star is 10-2 when facing elimination.
New York will play either Boston or Montreal in the best-of-seven East finals. The Bruins and Canadiens are tied 3-3 in their series, with Game 7 on Wednesday in Boston.
Lundqvist was at his best during a mad scramble in front of the Rangers’ net with slightly more than five minutes left, when he turned aside three shots from three different angles in a matter of seconds to preserve a one-goal lead.
“He was OK with guys being on top of him as long as we didn’t take penalties,” New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “He fought through screens, fought for loose pucks. He was incredible.”
Jussi Jokinen scored his team-high seventh goal of the postseason for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves for the Penguins, who outshot New York 36-20 in Game 7 but were outscored 10-3 over the final three games.
Pittsburgh fell to 2-7 at home in Game 7s, including three such losses in the past five seasons.
Crosby, who led the league in scoring in the regular season, was limited to one goal in 13 playoff games.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Patrick Kane scored on a backhand at 9:40 of overtime to give Chicago a 2-1 victory over Minnesota in Game 6 that eliminated the Wild from the playoffs. The Blackhawks will play either Anaheim or Los Angeles in the best-of-seven West finals.
Kris Versteeg scored at 1:58 of the first period for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks and Corey Crawford made 34 saves.
Erik Haula scored and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 shots for Minnesota.