The Washington Capitals
are nothing if not resilient.
The Caps have lost four times in overtime during this year's playoffs, including a pair of excruciating losses to the New York Rangers
in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- a triple-OT loss in Game 3 and a 3-2 loss in Game 5 in which they were 6.6 seconds away from winning.
But the Caps have refused to feel sorry for themselves. They rebounded from each of the first three overtime losses with victories, then did it again on Wednesday by beating the Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 -- sending the series to the limit and becoming the first team in NHL history to won four straight times after an overtime loss in a single playoff year.
The Caps also continued their streak of not having to play from behind in the third period. Washington has played 13 games this spring and hasn't trailed after two periods in any of them. The Capitals have taken a lead into the third period four times, winning all four, and have been tied through 40 minutes in the other nine games. The bad news -- they've lost six of the nine games.
Giving up their bodies -- The Rangers managed 31 shots on goal against Braden Holtby
in Game 6, but that number would have been a lot higher if the rookie goaltender hadn't gotten some help from his friends.
The Caps, who've piled up blocked shots all series long, got in front of 24 more on Wednesday. In all, 12 Capitals were credited with at least one block -- and that includes Alex Ovechkin
, who led the Caps' forwards with three.
The Rangers have had the puck for most of the series, but the Caps' willingness to throw their bodies in front of flying pucks has negated a lot of that possession advantage. New York has had 180 shots on goal through the first six games, but the Caps have blocked another 164.
In contrast, the Caps have managed 156 shots through six games; the Rangers have blocked another 93.
First time for everything -- The one consolation for the Rangers is that Game 7 will be played in the friendly environs of Madison Square Garden, where they've already won one seventh game this spring -- beating Ottawa 2-1 in the opening round.
In fact, the Rangers are perfect at MSG in Game 7s; the win against Ottawa gave them four wins in as many tries at the Garden, including back-to-back victories against New Jersey and Vancouver in the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final in 1994. Away from home, the Rangers have lost all five Game 7s they've played.
The Capitals haven't fared well in Game 7s throughout their history -- they were 2-7 all-time before beating the Bruins in Boston on April 25. But one of those two victories came against the Rangers -- a 2-1 win in 2009. Of the Capitals' 12 victories in their 35 playoff series, four have come in six previous meetings with the Rangers. Washington hasn’t beaten any other team more than twice.
A win on Saturday would be the Caps' third series victory against the Rangers in the past four seasons -- and amazingly, they would have won each series using a different rookie goaltender. Semyon Varlamov
was in goal when the Caps rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win in '09, while Michal Neuvirth
led Washington to a five-game triumph last spring.