GAME 7 HEAVEN

GAME 7 HEAVEN
April 26, 2012, 2:27 am
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BOSTON Joel Ward shoved a Mike Knuble rebound under Tim Thomas with 2:57 gone in the first overtime, sending the Capitals to an impressive 2-1 victory over the Bruins in front of a stunned sellout crowd at TD Garden.

The win catapults the Capitals into the second round of the playoffs for the second time in as many years.

Knuble, a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series, drove hard to the net and was standing in front of Thomas when Ward rifled his first goal of the playoffs onto the net.

Patrice Bergeron missed an open net in opening minute of overtime.

With the win, the seventh-seeded Capitals will face either the top-seeded Rangers, the fifth-seeded Flyers or the sixth-seeded Devils in the second round of the playoffs.

If the Rangers beat the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 Thursday night the Capitals will begin Round 2 in New York this weekend.

If the Rangers lose and the Panthers beat the Devils, the Caps will face the Flyers in Philadelphia this weekend.

If the Rangers lose and the Devils beat the Panthers, the Caps will face the Devils in Newark this weekend.

After a first-period goal by the Capitals Matt Hendricks and a second-period goal by Tyler Seguin, the two teams got into a staring contest and for the entire third period no one blinked.

The Bruins had two chances to take the lead on the power play and the Capitals had one, but neither team could take advantage and the two teams headed to overtime for the fourth time, making it the closest playoff series in NHL history.

As Mike Knuble predicted the day before, Game 7 began as a chess match, with each team playing keep-away in the neutral zone. The Bruins outshot the Capitals 11-5 in the first period but it was a simple wrist shot from the right point and some sleight of hand from Matt Hendricks that gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead at the 11:23 mark.

Jason Chimera gained the offensive zone, hit the brakes and banked a back pass off the boards to defenseman John Carlson, who snapped a shot toward the Bruins net. Before it got there Hendricks turned into the slot and deflected the puck just enough for it to change direction on Tim Thomas.

It was Hendricks first goal of the playoffs, making him the 11th Capital to score in the series and he responded with an emphatic fist pump. The goal snapped a Game 7 shutout string of 138 minutes, 53 seconds for Thomas, dating back to last springs post-season.

The Bruins didnt generate much offense the rest of the period and Holtby was precise and economic with his movements between the pipes, easily turning aside a hard wrist shot from Rich Peverley from the right faceoff dot late in the period.

The second period was a bit of an adventure for the 22-year-old from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.

The Caps were clinging to their 1-0 lead when the first crack in the dam appeared midway through the second period. A long chest-high shot by Brad Marchand was mishandled by Holtby, who looked like a first baseman who lost the ball in the sun.

There was no damage done on the miscue but the Bruins must have recognized Holtbys trouble because they started firing pucks at him from all angles.

Like a wounded prize fighter trying to make it to the bell, the Capitals were knocked down with 5:33 remaining in the second period on a gutsy goal by Tyler Seguin.

Johnny Boychuk rifled a shot from the right point that squirted through Holtby and lay behind him in the crease. Just as Holtby lunged back to grab the puck and Karl Alzner and John Carlson collapsed in the crease Tyler Seguin dived into the pile to knife the puck into the open net and tie the score.

It was one of the dirtiest goals of the series and came from a player known more for his flash than his crash.