What a difference a week makes. Last Wednesday, the New York Rangers had lost to the Washington Capitals by a 2-1 score. The score itself is less important that the fact that at this point, the Rangers trailed the Caps 1-3 in games won. In short, the Rangers were on the brink of elimination as this was a best of seven series.
But maybe the Rangers needed a blade positioned over their necks to really get their survival instincts running. Or they needed to be standing on the edge of the abyss with a pair of hands on their backs to get the urgency before them.
The next game, a win or go home for the summer, was scheduled for Friday May 8th, at MSG. Here is the New York Post back cover the next day.
Okay, the series was now 3 games to 2 with Washington ahead, and Game Six would be in the Caps’ building on Sunday.
Here is the New York Post back cover on Monday morning.
The Series is now even!
Game Seven was scheduled for Wednesday May 13th in New York. Last night. The losers would begin their summer vacations right after the game ended. The Caps best player, Alexander Ovechkin had guaranteed that the Caps would not lose. At 12:50 into the 1st period, Ovechkin was able to put one past Ranger goalie Lundqvist from the slot, and the Caps surged into a 1-0 lead.
Kevin Hayes of the Rangers would tie the game at 1-1 in the second period.
For the next 42 minutes – which meant 8+ minutes into the overtime, both times played extremely hard. There were plenty of chances but both goalies were resolute and yes, it must be said – heroic..
Until Ranger Derek Stepan slapped a rebound past Caps goalie Holtby. In that instant, Ovechnik’s guarantee crumbled into history, and all he could do was skate into his summer vacation.
The Rangers had crawled out of the hole, stepped away from the abyss, and would next be playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers became the first team in NHL history to overcome 3-1 deficits in the Stanley Cup Playoff competition two years in a row.
As for Stepan, he just carved his name into the annals and lore of New York Ranger history. I mean scoring the game winning and series winning goal in a 7th game overtime – well the number of players who have done that – is truly a short list.
45 years after the fact, when a skier jumper crashed and Jim McKay coined a phrase by pairing the words – the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, those words still remain a part of sports lexicon, and today they still reflect why people play sports and why people watch sports. To wit, Ovechkin skates away – as his off-season begins, and Derek Stepan,
leaps with joy, straight into the hearts of Ranger fans forever, knowing his season and that of the New York Rangers continues.