-- The most competitive second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in more than 20 years will peak with three decisive Game 7s over the next two nights. The Pittsburgh Penguins
and Washington Capitals
conclude their epic series tonight in Washington; on Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks
visit the Detroit Red Wings
and the Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes
This year marks the first time since 2001 that as many as three Conference Semifinal series extended to seven games and matches the 1986 second-round record of three seven-game and one six-game series.
The 2007 Stanley Cup champion Ducks defeated the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings 2-1 in Game 6 at Anaheim Tuesday night, forcing their ultimate showdown. The last time the previous two NHL champions met in a playoff series that reached a seventh game was in 1991, when the 1990 victors, the Edmonton Oilers
, defeated the 1989 champion Calgary Flames
in a 5-4 overtime thriller.
The Boston Bruins
, in their 85th NHL season, topped the Hurricanes 4-2 in Raleigh Tuesday night and could capture a series they had trailed 3-1 for the first time in franchise history. Carolina is vying for its fourth consecutive triumph in a seventh and deciding game: The Hurricanes defeated the Buffalo Sabres
and Edmonton Oilers
in the 2006 Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final, respectively, and eliminated the New Jersey Devils
in the opening round this season by scoring twice in the final 80 seconds of the third period for a stunning, comeback 4-3 triumph.
A total of 125 playoff series have gone to seven games since the NHL introduced the best-of-seven format in 1939. The home team has won 79 (63%).
Of those 125 seven-game series, 30 have been decided in overtime. Carolina LW Ray Whitney
and Anaheim C Todd Marchant
are among the select group of overtime goal-scorers in a Game 7. Whitney gave the San Jose Sharks
a 5-4 victory at Calgary in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals on May 19, 1995, while Marchant lifted the Edmonton Oilers
to a 4-3 win at Dallas in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals on April 29, 1997. Marchant already has an overtime goal in his current series, scoring in triple overtime to win Game 2 at Detroit.
Bruins C Stephane Yelle
, already the leader among active NHL players, could appear in his 12th career Game 7.