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Caps and Rangers square off in Game 7

by Dave Lozo


(Best-of-seven series tied, 3-3)


Big Story:
It's been a series in which the teams have alternated wins and losses since the Rangers captured Game 1. Since the Rangers won 3-1 in the series opener, every game has been a one-goal contest and that doesn't seem likely to change in Game 7. Two games have gone to overtime, and neither team has scored more than three goals in a game. It will likely come down to who blinks first between Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Caps goalie Braden Holtby, as the team who has scored first in this series has won all six games.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Confidence and intestinal fortitude may have been a problem for Washington in the past, but the Capitals have proven to be a gutsy, resilient team during the postseason.

They showed it in Game 4 by bouncing back for a win after losing in triple overtime in the previous game, then recovered from a back-breaking loss in Game 5 by dominating the Rangers early in a victory in Game 6. They will look to win their second road Game 7 of this postseason Saturday using that same blueprint.

"I think it just shows the character that we've got," Matt Hendricks said. "Every guy in this room has character. You don't sense a feeling of giving up from anyone at all. We expect to win hockey games. That's what we show up to do. When we do achieve that, it feels good."

Rangers: In a series where goals come at a premium, goaltenders are that much more valuable. Braden Holtby has been a great story for the Capitals, a 22-year-old bursting onto the scene after injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth and pushing the Caps through the first round.

But Henrik Lundqvist has been even better in the postseason than he was in a regular season that may net a Vezina Trophy. He's second among goalies on teams that are still alive in the playoffs with a 1.73 goals-against average and third in save percentage at .936.

"There's so many things you can say about Henrik, but in my opinion, he's the best goalie in the League," Rangers forward Derek Stepan said. "Obviously I'm a little biased, but he makes so many big saves and competes so hard. It's really hard to get a puck by him even if you have a real clean look. If there's a breakdown, he steps in there and makes a big save for you. It definitely makes things a little bit easier knowing he's back there."

Offense has been tough to come by for New York, which is averaging 2.08 goals per game through 13 contests. All Brad Richards cares about is scoring one more than Washington in Game 7.

"It's really one game," Richards said. "If we win 1-0, it's the same as if we win 5-1. You play the game the way it's being played and we're not going to abandon our structure just because people are writing about lack of scoring. We just have to win a game."

Who's Hot:
Caps star Alex Ovechkin has three goals in his past five games. … Marian Gaborik has scored three goals in his last four games for the Rangers.

Injury Report:
Caps forward Jay Beagle (lower-body) missed Game 6 and his status for Game 7 is up in the air. … Rangers forwardBrandon Dubinsky remains out of the lineup with a lower-body injury. Mats Zuccarello is skating with the team but isn't yet fully recovered from his wrist injury.

Stat Pack: Could winning Game 7 be pointless for both teams? Since the Stanley Cup Playoffs went to a best-of-seven format for all four rounds in 1987, no team has won the Cup after having to go to seven games in each of the first two. No team has won the Cup after playing more than 18 games in the first three rounds.

Puck Drop:
"Growing up, I was a big fan. Watching your team, I was so nervous. I'm pretty sure a lot of fans are nervous. Sometimes that's even worse than playing. That's why we need to get them going with a great start so they feel comfortable and stay confident."-- Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, who are 4-0 at Madison Square Garden in Game 7s in franchise history

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