-- An already-classic series will reach its dramatic crescendo Wednesday night when the Washington Capitals
host the Pittsburgh Penguins
in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal (7 p.m., ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
From the miraculous save by Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov in Game 1, to the dueling hat tricks by Washington's Alex Ovechkin
and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby
in Game 2, to the overtime goal by unheralded David Steckel
for Washington to force a seventh game, this series has met and exceeded all expectations:
Close games. Five of the first six games have been decided by one goal; the other was a one-goal game late in the third period. Three of the games have required overtime. The teams have been tied or separated by one goal 92% of the time. Both teams have led in each of the six games. There have been goals in 20 of 21 periods.
Star power. Ovechkin leads all players in scoring with 13 points (seven goals, six assists), the most by a player in one playoff series since Doug Weight
had 13 for the St. Louis Blues
against Vancouver in a 2003 first-round series. Crosby has recorded 10 points (six goals, four assists) and Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin
(2-6--8) was the First Star of Game 3 and scored the overtime winner in Game 5.
Unsung heroes. Pittsburgh's Kris Letang
, a game-time decision to play Game 3, went on to score the overtime winner. Washington's David Steckel
, who entered Game 6 with 10 goals in 88 regular-season and playoff games this season, notched the overtime winner.
The Penguins will be making their first appearance in a Game 7 since defeating the Buffalo Sabres
in a 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinal on an overtime goal by defenseman Darius Kasparaitis
. The Capitals are hosting a Game 7 for a third consecutive series; they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Philadelphia Flyers
in a 2008 first-round series and defeated the New York Rangers
2-1 in opening-round play this year.
Since the NHL introduced the best-of-seven format in 1939, a total of 125 playoff series have gone to seven games and the home team has won 79 (63%).
Of the 125 series in League playoff history that have gone to seven games, 30 have been decided in overtime. In the last such contest, the Capitals dropped a 3-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers
on a power-play goal by Joffrey Lupul
at 6:06 to decide the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on April 22, 2008. Home and road teams have split the games 15-15, although road clubs are 11-4 since 1990.
Capitals center Sergei Fedorov
is expected to make his ninth career appearance in a Game 7. Fedorov has tallied six points (three goals, three assists) in his eight previous Game 7s, including the game-winning goal in the Capitals' 2-1 victory over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Final this year. The other player with a game-winning tally in a Game 7 is Penguins left wing Ruslan Fedotenko
, who notched both goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning
in a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames
in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.
Ovechkin is playing in his third NHL playoff series and each has gone to a seventh game. Crosby will play in a Game 7 for the first time in his career.
WASHINGTON, PITTSBURGH RECORDS IN GAME 7
4/28/09, Eastern Conference QF vs. NY Rangers (NYR 1 at WSH 2)
4/22/08, Eastern Conference QF vs. Philadelphia (PHI 3 at WSH 2, OT)
5/18/95, Eastern Conference QF vs. Pittsburgh (WSH 0 at PIT 3)
5/1/92, Patrick Division SF vs. Pittsburgh (PIT 3 at WSH 1)
4/30/88, Patrick Division Final vs. New Jersey (N.J. 3 at WSH 2)
4/16/88, Patrick Division SF vs. Philadelphia (PHI 4 at WSH 5, OT)
4/18/87, Patrick Division SF vs. NY Islanders (NYI 3 at WSH 2, 4OT)
5/10/01, Eastern Conference SF vs. Buffalo (PIT 3 at BUF 2, OT)
5/4/99, Eastern Conference QF vs. New Jersey (PIT 4 at N.J. 2)
6/1/96, Eastern Conference Final vs. Florida (FLA 3 at PIT 1)
5/18/95, Eastern Conference QF vs. Washington (WSH 0 at PIT 3)
5/14/93, Patrick Division Final vs. NY Islanders (NYI 4 at PIT 3, OT)
5/1/92, Patrick Division SF vs. Washington (PIT 3 at WSH 1)
4/15/91, Patrick Division SF vs. New Jersey (N.J. 0 at PIT 4)
4/29/89, Patrick Division Final vs. Philadelphia (PHI 4 at PIT 1)
4/26/75, Quarterfinal vs. NY Islanders (NYI 1 at PIT 0)