Capitals to face Rangers once again

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Top seed awaits Caps in the second round

For the third time in four years, the Capitals will meet the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Washington advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals with Wednesday's dramatic 2-1 overtime win over the Boston Bruins. But the Caps had to wait 24 hours to find out their opponent, which finally happened when the Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators 2-1 in Game 7 of that first-round series on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The NHL has yet to announce dates or times for the Eastern Conference's second-round games. The New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers were also playing a Game 7 on Thursday night with the winner playing the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Caps beat New York in the first round in both 2009 and 2011 -- the first series a seven-game thriller that Washington won in Game 7 thanks to a late goal by Sergei Fedorov. Last spring, the Caps managed to win in five games, but that series also featured two games that went to overtime and each contest was decided by two goals or less.

This season's meeting features a twist, however. The Rangers are the conference's No. 1 seed this time after finishing with the best record and have home-ice advantage. Washington had that edge in the two recent postseason series between the two teams and themselves were the No. 1 seed in 2011. This time the Caps are the No. 7 seed, upsetting No. 2 Boston in the first round. They split with New York during the regular season with each squad winning one game in the opposition's building.

Rookie goalie Braden Holtby will have another stiff challenge with a star across from him in net. Against Boston it was Tim Thomas, the 2010-11 Vezina Trophy winner and most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This time it is the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, who tied for third in the NHL in save percentage this season (.930).

"It's our dream to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs and play for the [Stanley] Cup," Washington forward Brooks Laich said. "There's been some frustration here in the past. To move on, to beat a good team and to move on, we're very excited."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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