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Cullen: Rangers, Devils advance to second round

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Scott Cullen
4/27/2012 12:51:02 AM
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In a pair of very close Game Sevens, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils emerged victorious.

A look at the last two series of the first round from the NHL playoffs.

RANGERS ESCAPE
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 of 27 Ottawa Senators shots as New York held on to win 2-1 in Game Seven.

Lundqvist, who was expected to be the deciding factor for the Rangers, finished the seven-game series with a 1.70 goals against average and .945 save percentage.

In the deciding game, the Rangers didn't get their goals from big-name forwards like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, rather, the goals came from defencemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, a duo that scored a total of seven goals in the regular season.

Ottawa's lone marker of the game was a power play goal by Daniel Alfredsson, who was the most dangerous Senators forward, registering six shots on goal (tying Milan Michalek for most in the game). There is the possibility that this was Alfredsson's last game but, considering how well he played this season (59 points, plus-16 in 75 games), the 39-year-old still has enough left in the tank to continue for another season.

After not playing more than 11:11 in any of his first four games of the series, Rangers rookie LW Chris Kreider played 18:21, was on in the final minute protecting the one-goal lead and led the Blueshirts with four shots on goal.

One factor that played into the Rangers' favour, aside from strong play by Lundqvist, was the Rangers' ability to block shots. With 87 blocked shots, the Rangers had more blocks than any team in Round One.

The win didn't come easily for the Rangers, as they needed many contributions from lower profile players to get the job done. Brad Richards led the team with five points, but defencemen Girardi and Anton Stralman tied for second on the team (along with Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan) with four points. If the Rangers are going to have success in the next round against Washington, they will likely need more from Marian Gaborik, who managed three points in the series.

Ottawa's offensive effort was led by Jason Spezza, with five points, and Nick Foligno and Sergei Gonchar, who had four. Gonchar also played 24:35 per game.

There was very little to choose between the two clubs, with Lundqvist's super series giving the Rangers a slight edge because Ottawa's Craig Anderson was very good (2.00 GAA, .933 SV%) in his own right.

DEVILS DOWN PANTHERS
New Jersey Devils rookie centre Adam Henrique scored a pair of goals, including the series winner in double overtime, to eliminate the Florida Panthers in Game Seven.

Henrique had no goals and one assist in the first six games of the series, so he picked a fine time to break out offensively.

In goal, Martin Brodeur stopped 43 of 45 Panthers shots, his most saves in a game since January 12, 2010.

New Jersey's fourth line contributed yet again, as Stephen Gionta notched his second marker of the series. Gionta had one goal in 13 career regular season games prior to this year's playoffs and only had 16 points in 58 AHL games during the 2011-2012 season. That the 28-year-old is contributing in a meaningful way is just so unlikely. 

In the second period of Game Seven, the Panthers fell flat, getting outshot 11-2 in period and falling behind 2-0 in the game but, from that point on, the Panthers carried the play, outshooting New Jersey 31-15 as they mounted a furious comeback.

A pair of power play goals by Stephen Weiss, then Marcel Goc, forced overtime.

Travis Zajac was the Devils' leading scorer in the series, with six points and Ilya Kovalchuk had five points.

Panthers D Brian Campbell, who played the most minutes in the league this season, skated 39:31 to lead all players in Game Seven.

Florida's leading scorer in the series was Sean Bergenheim, who had six points, one point ahead of five others -- Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Marcel Goc, Mikael Samuelsson and Brian Campbell. That's a balanced attack.

Much like the Senators, the Panthers' season was a success before the playoffs even started because they exceeded expectations by such a wide margin. That doesn't take away form the disappointment of losing Game Seven at home in Double OT.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Dan Girardi Brandon Prust (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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