Unlike his “All series, baby” comment to Henrik Lundqvist in Game 1, which was picked up by a rink-level NBC Sports Network microphone, Alex Ovechkin’s confident words after Sunday’s Game 6 loss to the Rangers were intended for everyone.

“We almost tie the game, and the character of this group, it shows a lot,” Ovechkin said softly but firmly after the Capitals’ comeback bid fell short and the Rangers forced a Game 7 with a 4-3 win. “We’re going to come back and win the series. We’re going to play our game, and we’re going to come back and we’re going to play Montreal or Tampa.”

Capitals Coach Barry Trotz liked the confidence from his captain — “I saw that, and that’s what leaders do,” he said Monday — while Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t dwell on Ovechkin’s remarks during his media availability.

Ovechkin’s comments Sunday elicited memories of similar words he said after the Capitals fell behind three games to none in a second-round series against the Lightning in 2011.

“It’s not over,” Ovechkin said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to win. We have to defend our lead and play our game, but we didn’t. I think when we get the puck deep only one guy was chasing. We tried to play too safe. We didn’t play our way at all.”

Tampa Bay put Washington out of its misery with a sweep.

Two years earlier, Ovechkin delivered on a bold statement after the Capitals fell behind three games to two in a second-round series against the Penguins.

“Next game is going to be different,” Ovechkin said. “It’s not over yet. If somebody thinks it’s over, it’s not over. We’re going to come back here again. Game 7.”

Ovechkin had three assists in an Game 6 overtime win.

Ovechkin’s message has also drawn comparisons to former Rangers great Mark Messier’s “guarantee” before Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals against the Devils, with New York trailing three games to two.

“We’re going to go in and win Game 6,” Messier said. “That was the focus this morning and it’s the way we feel right now. We’ve done that all year, we’ve won all the games we’ve had to win. I know we’re going to go in and win Game 6 and bring it back here [to Madison Square Garden] for Game 7 … We have enough talent and experience to turn the tide. That’s exactly what we’re going to do in Game 6.”

Messier scored three third-period goals in New York’s 4-2 win. The Rangers won the series and went on to win the Stanley Cup. (Twenty years later, he said he regretted his comments.)

Ovechkin also has opened himself to criticism from the likes of the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, who offered this abridged take under the headline “Cocky Alex Ovechkin guarantees Game 7 win”:

Alex (All Series, Baby, All Series) Ovechkin hasn’t scored since Game 2 of Round 2 against the Rangers, but that didn’t stop No. 8 from issuing a guarantee for Wednesday’s Game 7 at the Garden following his team’s 4-3 Game 6 home defeat Sunday.
Wednesday will mark the third Game 7 between these teams in the last four years, with the Blueshirts having taken the 2012 second round with a Game 7, 2-1 victory at the Garden a year before taking the 2013 first-round with a 5-0 rout of the Caps in D.C.
There were no guarantees issued before either of those matches by any of the Rangers, just as there were none Sunday night in the New York room.

All of which is secondary to the debate about whether what Ovechkin said is even a guarantee!

I’ll argue it is, just like Messier’s comments in 1994 and Rasheed Wallace’s “We will win Game 2” remark during the 2009 NBA Finals were guarantees.

A sports guarantee need not include the words “I guarantee.” It also need not satisfy the legal definition of the term, which requires the person making the guarantee to fulfill some obligation if he fails to perform. While there are varying degrees of sports guarantees, from Matt Hasselbeck’s “We want the ball, and we’re gonna score” to Joe Namath’s much bolder “I guarantee it” before Super Bowl III, they all feature an assurance that something will happen. (“I think we’re going to win,” “I believe we have what it takes to win,” “We’re planning to win,” etc. aren’t guarantees.)

One could reasonably suggest that Ovechkin’s previous “guarantees” were lost in translation as a result of the language barrier, and that he instead meant to say he was confident or believed the Capitals would win. But his doubling down Sunday in saying Washington will play Montreal or Tampa Bay takes his most recent comments into sports guarantee territory for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I guarantee this comment wins the debate.