Why New York won: The Rangers had scored only 10 goals in the first five games of this series and eight of them came in their two wins. But although the Blueshirts once again had trouble with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, their goal midway through the second period was the difference thanks to a smart forecheck and the terrific play of star goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers also demolished Washington in the faceoff circle, winning 60 percent of draws.
Why Washington lost: Although the Capitals played a solid defensive game, they met their match in many ways, including shot-blocking (the Caps blocked 19 shots and the Rangers 17) and hits (the Blueshirts had 33 to Washington’s 28). The Caps played a less disciplined game and gave New York five power plays without enjoying a single man advantage the entire night. But mostly, they ran into one of the game’s top goalies.
Play of the game: The Capitals were pressing late in the third and Eric Fehr snapped a shot from the high slot at Lundqvist, who made a brilliant glove save with 3:49 to play to keep Washington from tying it. It was one of a slew of impressive stops by Lundqvist, who also turned aside a barrage of rubber at the end of the game.
1. Henrik Lundqvist: The star Swede was making his 60th consecutive playoff start for the Rangers and looked every bit the Vezina Trophy candidate he is this season. In stopping all 27 Capitals shots, Lundqvist recorded his seventh career playoff shutout and raised his playoff save percentage to .937 and lowered his goals-against average to 1.91.
2. Derek Stepan: The Rangers center was on the ice for 23:27 – more than any Blueshirts forward and second only on the team to Dan Girardi (24:42) – and won 69 percent of the faceoffs he took (11 of 17). The 22-year-old has just two goals in the first round, but both of them were game-winners.
3. Braden Holtby: Holtby stopped all but one of New York’s 29 shots and deserved a better fate. Were it not for several key saves he made, this game’s final score would have been far less flattering to the Caps. And Washington will need an equally impressive effort to make it to the second round.
What's Next: The teams play Game 7 Monday in Washington and nobody should doubt it will be a chippy affair, especially since Game 6 ended with a line brawl nearly breaking out in the corner to Lunqvist’s right. This will be a huge and pressure-packed opportunity for Rangers winger Rick Nash to score his first goal of the series, but the stakes are higher for many people on both sides – including Rangers coach John Tortorella, who might be looking for another job should his team be eliminated. – Adam Proteau
Why Toronto won: Because they played a perfect road game…on home ice. The Leafs were quick and disciplined and stuck to it. They got flawless goaltending and cut way down on the defensive zone mistakes that plagued them through most of the season and the first part of the series. The Bruins didn’t get near as many shots from the point as they had in previous games in the series and when the shots did get through, James Reimer handled them. The goalie must give Randy Carlyle the occasional racing palpitation of the heart, but he gets the job done.
Why Boston lost: Because they were far too passive. This is supposed to be a physical, punishing team? They are simply not making life miserable enough for the Leafs skilled players and they did not, at least in Game 6, use their size advantage to control the puck enough in the defensive zone. They started with the puck after the vast majority of the faceoffs, but failed to convert that into enough scoring chances.
Play of the game: Early in the third period, Nazem Kadri controlled the blueline and showed an incredible amount of patience with the puck – were you watching, Phil Kessel – before firing a puck on the Bruins net that was tipped by Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who wisely went to the front of the Boston net when he sensed the opportunity.
1. James Reimer: There are times when this guy scares the livin’ bejeepers out of you, but he never gives up on a puck and has been nothing short of outstanding in the past two games.
2. James van Riemsdyk: He assisted on both Maple Leaf goals and was hugely involved in the offensive zone. He was one of the few Leaf forwards who was willing to go to battle in front of the Bruins net.
3. Jake Gardiner: He didn’t show up on the scoresheet, but he was absolutely dynamic on each and every shift. His puck skills are outstanding and his ability to get back into a defensive position allows him to take chances in the offensive zone.
What’s next: The Leafs will play their first Game 7 in nine years and we all know anything can happen in that scenario. All the pressure will be on the heavily favored Bruins, who have displayed a mind-boggling inability to close out series. The Leafs will have to win three games in Boston to take this series. If they manage to do that, good on them for it. – Ken Campbell
Why Detroit won: Heading into Game 6, captain Henrik Zetterberg had no goals in the series, but in the final two games he scored three goals and two assists to lead the Wings in to Round 2. The Wings just stuck around this series despite being overmatched for most of it, but stole momentum at key times. Whether it be how they dragged four games to overtime – three of which they won – or how they jumped out in front early on the road in Game 7, Detroit put Anaheim in a position to lose a few times and eventually won the marathon.
Why Anaheim lost: They just didn't get enough from their top line. Corey Perry didn’t score a goal all series and Ryan Getzlaf went pointless over the final two games. In Game 1, it was a good sign the Ducks depth lines were playing so well, but in the end, too often those lines were the team’s best – and that won’t win you playoff series.
Play of the game: Up 2-1 in the final six-plus minutes of the second period, the Red Wings were the first to the puck a couple comes on this zone attack and got a goal from Valtteri Filppula on a broken play. That gave the Wings a much-needed cushion against a team they had already blown two leads late against and ended up as the game-winner.
1. Henrik Zetterberg: The way he picked up his pace and contributions the last two games is what good captains can do. Zetterberg scored a goal and assist in Game 7 and registered six shots.
2. Emerson Etem: Another great game from the youngster, Etem scored his second goal in as many games that tied this one in the first. He finished with five points in seven games in his first playoff appearance.
3. Pavel Datsyuk: Though he didn’t get a point, Datsyuk was split up from Zetterberg for the first time this series and did his job shutting down the Getzlaf line until Anaheim had to switch the matchup.
What’s next: Is that the last we’ve seen of Teemu Selanne? You never can tell with the Finnish Flash, but the question has to be asked every year after 40. Anaheim’s core will remain intact, but that core was the central shortcoming of this series and is in need of close examination. The Wings move on to play the Hawks, another team that overmatches them even more on paper. Jimmy Howard will no doubt have to stand tall, as will the usual superstars if Detroit can pull another upset. Chicago had an easy travel series against Minnesota, while Detroit had to travel cross-country and could take its toll. – Rory Boylen