The Capitals are quite familiar with the agony-inducing, pressure-packed contests that are a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Winner-take-all nailbiters where every shift and every mistake are magnified because at the end, one team’s season will come to a screeching halt.
Five of six contests in this series have been decided by one goal and two have gone to overtime, so it’s not all that surprising that the Capitals and Rangers would need Game 7 to determine a winner of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
“I kind of thought that right from the beginning of the series that it was going to be a long one,” Karl Alzner said. “The fact that we went up 2-0, I thought that was great, but I knew that wasn’t the case. Game 7 against this team is kind of normal now, so we’re ready for it.”
Of the nine playoff series in the Ovechkin era (dating back to 2008), seven have gone the distance, including this matchup against the Rangers. Washington is 2-4 in Game 7s in that same span and 1-3 when that decisive contest occurs at Verizon Center.
The challenge for the Capitals will be to put the memory of a 1-0 loss in Game 6 Sunday night and all the various grievances from it behind them. They don’t have time to dwell on the officiating, regardless of their opinion about the calls, or to ponder what might have been had they found a way to close out the series at the Garden.
They need a fresh start and a cleaner game.
“Start with penalties. Let’s end with penalties,” Troy Brouwer said when asked what needed to change for Game 7. “That’s the only thing that stunted our game [Sunday] was it killed our momentum, it killed our progress, it killed our top players who kill penalties. You can’t keep killing six, seven penalties a night and expect to win hockey games.”
Game 7s aren’t unfamiliar to the Rangers, either. Monday’s contest will mark the fourth time in six playoff series during Coach John Tortorella’s tenure that the New York has gone to seven games.
The Rangers have lost every game at Verizon Center so far in this series, but two were overtime losses and that slim of a margin offers encouragement.
“If you lose two in overtime you know you’re close, it’s just a bounce and you win it so we know we can do it,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “We have to play a really hard and smart game because they always come a little hard, I feel like, in their own building. If we can build on this one — I thought from the get go we did all the things we talked about, the forecheck and the first goal. It was fun.”
When asked about the significance of any single win or loss this season, Coach Adam Oates routinely used the phrase “turn the page”. The Capitals will need to heed his advice now more than ever.
“We’re not carrying the momentum in the series right now, obviously, but we’re going back to our rink,” Matt Hendricks said. “We’re going to have our fans behind us. We’re going to be at home. All those details will add up. These other situations are when you’ve got to look at the regular season and what you did to put yourself in this spot.”
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