It is one of the most exciting events in all of sports -- Game 7 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey fans wait months to see the spectacle of a winner advances, loser goes home contest, and there will be two of them Tuesday with the potential for two more the following night.
The Philadelphia Flyers, defending Eastern Conference champions, will try to complete a comeback from down 3-2 in their series against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET (TSN, VERSUS). The team that defeated the Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks, will be trying to finish an even greater revival act.
Chicago dropped the first three games of its series against the Vancouver Canucks but the Blackhawks have won three in a row and can become the fourth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to claim a series -- something Philadelphia managed to do against Boston en route to the 2010 Cup Final.
"These are fun games to play," Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "I don't think as a player you want to think about it too much or change a whole lot about what you've been doing. We're all in the League for a reason. Whatever it is that got us here, do that and do it as well as you can and be ready to go. If everyone does that, I think we'll be OK."
Not only did Philadelphia erase a 3-0 lead in the series, the Flyers also had to comeback from a 3-0 deficit once Game 7 started.
"I'm proud of the way they played," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after the win. "I'm proud of the way they represented the organization. I'm proud of the way they represented themselves."
Scoring a game-winning goal in Game 7 can become the defining moment in a player's career. Stephane Matteau scored 144 regular-season goals in his NHL career, but he will always be remembered for the one he scored against the New Jersey Devils in 1994 to put the New York Rangers into the Stanley Cup Final.
It can also be a confirmation of greatness. Steve Yzerman accomplished much during his Hall of Fame career, and his shot from just inside the blue line against the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semifinals could very well be his greatest of moments.
There are many iconic images that come from Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- Washington goaltender Bob Mason slumping over after allowing a goal to Pat Lafontaine of the New York Islanders in the fourth overtime of the game now known as "the Easter Epic" and Steve Smith's reaction after putting the puck in his own net for the Edmonton Oilers in 1986 against the Calgary Flames are two that come to mind.
Winning a Game 7 takes plenty of determination and luck. Moments after a potential tying goal went harmlessly off the crossbar, it was Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's dive to his right to stop Nicklas Lidstrom's buzzer-beating shot that become the iconic moment from Game 7 of the 2009 Final.
"It was so hard watching the clock tick down for that whole third period," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said shortly after the game. "But everything it took to win, we did it, you know. Blocking shots. Great goaltending. Different guys stepping up. I mean, we did exactly everything it takes to win. We're really happy with the result. We've been through a lot."
Someone will score a game-winning goal or make a game-saving play Tuesday night, and it is possible his career will be forever altered. That is the power and the allure of Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and why the next two days could offer several iconic moments.
We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.
— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp