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Justin Williams of Capitals thrives in Game 7

Forward brings 7-0 record into deciding contest against Penguins

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. --  On the morning of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), everyone was watching to see what "Mr. Game 7," Washington forward Justin Williams, would do.

Most of the Capitals were on the ice warming up for their morning skate with Williams nowhere to be seen. But that's normal.

Williams, 35, and defenseman Brooks Orpik, 36, are the two oldest Capitals (also the only ones to win a Stanley Cup) and usually among the last players to take the ice. What are they doing in the locker room?

 

[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Penguins series coverage]

 

"We listen to our '90s rock in here and we enjoy it, the two of us," Orpik said, "and then get out there. Everybody's got their different routines."

Williams, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, is 7-0 in Game 7 with an NHL-record 14 points, including a League record-tying seven goals (with Glenn Anderson). So his routine leading into this one was of great interest.

This game is the main reason the Capitals signed him as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2015.

"You've just got to enjoy why you're here," Williams said. "This is not the apex, but this is pretty close. This is the stuff that you're thinking of when you're a kid. This is Game 7. This is do or die. This is win or go home. This is everyone's watching, let's see what you've got. … We'll be ready."

The Capitals are 4-10 in Game 7, including 3-7 at home. The Penguins are 8-7 in Game 7 but are 5-0 on the road. That includes Game 7 wins at Washington in 1992 and 2009.

How much any of that will mean Wednesday is debatable. In this best-of-7 series, the Capitals trailed the Penguins 3-1 before winning the past two games. They are one victory from reaching the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1998.

"The approach is our backs have been against the wall for two games and now theirs are too," Williams said. "It's going to be a fight of will, and I can tell you one thing: I'm going to give everything I have tonight and make sure I don't let my teammates down, and everyone in this room is going to do the same and we'll be fine."

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Williams has no goals and three assists in the first six games, including no points in the past two games when the Capitals were facing elimination. His last goal was the overtime winner in Game 5 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But if there's one player Capitals coach Barry Trotz knows he doesn't have to worry about in Game 7, it's Williams.

"I don't have any doubts what Justin is going to bring," Trotz said. "He's going to bring his all, and his all is pretty good."

Despite his past accomplishments in Game 7 and ability to deal with the pressure that comes with them, Williams isn't completely comfortable with the "Mr. Game 7" moniker. He often downplays that part of his career.

"He's obviously got a track record there, but I don't think he likes that being a bigger deal than it is," Orpik said. "You know he hates to hear about it, and sometimes our coaches bring it up and I don't think he really loves to listen to it. I think he has the same approach every game. He's a real competitive guy, so when you're that competitive and you're that prepared, I think stuff works its way out and goes your way over time."

Williams won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy. His last Game 7 was the 2014 Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, when he scored a goal and assisted on defenseman Alec Martinez's overtime winner in the Kings' 5-4 victory.

Now, he gets a chance to play in another Game 7. Nerves are unavoidable. The key is channeling them the right way.

"Being relaxed is something that's obviously not going to happen," Williams said. "You're going to be excited. You're going to be nervous. The main thing is to use those butterflies as a positive and not being something that shies you away from success."

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The stakes are as high as they've ever been for the Capitals, who have never won the Stanley Cup and believe they have a great chance to do it this season if they can get past their old nemesis, the Penguins.

The Penguins defeated the Capitals in six games in the second round last season. This Game 7 is the Capitals' chance for redemption.

"You appreciate the opportunity to be in this game and we certainly do [after being] down 3-1," Williams said. "We're going to relish it, we're going to jump on it and, as I've been saying here, we're going to try to dictate."

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