Daniel Carcillo provided the burst of energy the New York Rangers were counting on in Game 7. The big goal was quite a bonus.
Carcillo gave the Rangers the lead with the first of their two second-period goals, and Henrik Lundqvist did just enough to hold off the Philadelphia Flyers and send New York into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 2-1 win on Wednesday night.
Carcillo was added to the lineup, after he sat out the previous two games, and the move paid instant dividends. He turned a crisp pass into his second goal of the series at 3:06 of the middle frame.
“When you’re in, you try to do something to stay in, whether it be offensively or bring a lot of energy,” Carcillo said. “That’s just what I was trying to do every time I was in this series.”
Benoit Pouliot stretched the Rangers’ lead to 2-0, and Lundqvist made it stand up with a 26-save effort one night after New York was beaten 5-2 in Philadelphia to set up the decisive Game 7.
“No one was jittery. We all knew what to do,” Carcillo said. “On this team, no one was shying away from the big stage.”
Lundqvist watched the third period of Game 6 from the bench, and started his preparation then for Wednesday.
“Coming home last night, I was so disappointed,” said Lundqvist, who improved to 4-1 in Game 7s. “But at the same time, I was mad because we couldn’t come up with a better performance. To play a Game 7 at home and to win, that was the inspiration.
“We played a really strong series. I think we were the better team. We pushed the pace almost every game. We definitely earned this one.”
The Rangers knocked out the Flyers about 24 hours after being pushed to the limit, improving to 6-0 in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden. New York will face another Metropolitan Division rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the next round starting on Friday.
Lundqvist allowed only a third-period goal to Jason Akeson at 4:32. He protected the one-goal lead at 7:25 when he made an awkward save against Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
The Rangers mobbed Lundqvist after the final buzzer, while the Flyers consoled their goalie, Steve Mason.
Mason, who didn’t start until Game 4 because of a concussion he admitted to after the game Wednesday, was sharp in stopping 31 shots. He just couldn’t will his club to a complete comeback after the Flyers fell into a 3-2 series hole.
“Game 7, lose 2-1, it doesn’t get any closer than that,” Giroux said. “We did a good job staying in the battle. We have a lot of character in this room, and for a young team I think it’s great. This is only going to make us stronger.”
No team won consecutive games in the series. The Rangers, who finished two points ahead of Philadelphia during the regular season, made the most of their home-ice advantage by taking three of four in the Garden.
Carcillo scored the all-important first goal off a picture-perfect pass from Mats Zuccarello.
Zuccarello threaded the puck with a behind-the-back feed from near the right circle between the legs of Flyers defencemen Andrew MacDonald and Braydon Coburn to Carcillo for the redirection.
“Usually those are the toughest ones to pick up. I missed one in Game 4 backdoor,” Carcillo said. “To track it through two sets of legs and then to get decent wood on it and see it go in, is a good feeling.”
Carcillo played for just the third time and the first at home. He had come out of the penalty box less than a minute earlier after serving a penalty for too many men on the ice.
The Rangers nearly doubled the lead later in the frame when they mounted a flurry of pressure, only to be stymied by Mason and done in by errant whacks at the puck.
But Philadelphia couldn’t capitalize on that or on two power plays in the period in which the Flyers were outshot 18-5.
“We didn’t initiate enough and play with enough aggressiveness as a team,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “Our game overall, we didn’t play our best hockey.”