Pierre Larouche, an amazing offensive force, has lifted the New York Rangers into the semifinal round of Stanley Cup competition.
The high-scoring center, relegated to the minors early this season, scored both goals Sunday night at New York as the Rangers outlasted the Washington Capitals, 2-1, to win the best-of-seven second-round series, 4-2.
While Larouche scored the goals, it was the sensational goaltending of John Vanbiesbrouck and some tenacious forechecking that enabled the Rangers to gain their second consecutive playoff upset. In the first round, they went five games to knock off Philadelphia.
Larouche, twice a 50-goal scorer in the NHL, was brought up three months ago to give a lift to the Ranger offense, and he did just that. Counting regular-season games, he has scored 28 goals in 39 games, and he was the difference as the Rangers barely qualified for the playoffs.
Rookie Mike Ridley and Larouche went in alone on goaltender Pete Peeters 12 1/2 minutes into the game. Ridley slipped the puck to Larouche, who lifted it over Peters’ glove. In the third period on a power-play in the opening minute, it was Ridley and Larouche again providing the goal.
Washington’s Bob Carpenter, also on a power play, knocked in a rebound with more than 14 minutes remaining, but the tight-checking Rangers never let the Capitals get close to a tie. In the regular season, Washington finished 29 points (14 1/2 games) ahead of the Rangers.
After Carpenter put them within a goal, the Capitals had five more shots on goal, none of them difficult ones. Earlier, Vanbiesbrouck frustrated the Capitals with some fabulous stops. On at least two of them it didn’t seem possible the little goaltender even saw the puck.
The Rangers, who last won the Stanley Cup 46 years ago, will meet the winner of the Hartford-Montreal series.
Hartford 1, Montreal 0--Mike Liut, back in the nets after missing two games because of a knee injury, stopped 32 shots at Hartford and the Whalers pulled even with the Canadiens at three wins apiece.
The deciding game is Tuesday night at Montreal.
Kevin Dineen, with his sixth playoff goal, broke a scoreless deadlock when he tipped in a centering pass from John Anderson at 7:30 of the second period.
It was one of only 17 shots the Whalers had against 20-year-old rookie goalie Patrick Roy.
Liut’s biggest save came halfway through the final period. Claude Lemieux fired from just five feet away and, somehow, Liut got his leg out to deflect the puck.