NEW YORK -- History is not on the Washington Capitals' side as they head into Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
The Rangers' record in Game 7s at MSG (6-0) and goalie Henrik Lundqvist's record in elimination games (13-3), appear to give the Rangers the edge. But with goalie Braden Holtby, the Capitals should not be counted out.
Before allowing four goals on 28 shots in a 4-3 loss in Game 6 at Verizon Center on Sunday, Holtby had allowed seven goals in the first five games of the series and kept his team in each game.
"I think he's done a great job for us," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said after the morning skate Wednesday. "In big moments he's come up big and that's what you need your goaltender for. He needs to bail you out when you make mistakes because you're going to make mistakes. He needs to make those timely saves, whether it's a big highlight-reel save or just a routine save that he's in good position for that doesn't get a lot of credit. He gives us the momentum to continue on in games to be able to win."
Holtby has a 1.71 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games and has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of those games. He's 2-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in Game 7s, with one of those wins coming in Game 7 of the first round this year against the New York Islanders when he made 10 saves in a 2-1 victory.
"It was a little different for me because it was kind of a strange game for me to play based on how well we played as a team," Holtby said of that game against the Islanders. "I know I have to be better. I know I am going to be more prepared. … We are ready to go; we are excited about the challenge.
"I think it's done a lot for our team, knowing that we've been in that situation before, knowing how well we played in Game 7, that commitment it takes to put that performance forward. So I think we're trying to use it to our advantage. But when it comes down to one game advantages go out the window unless you use your past experiences to your advantage."
Holtby's two Game 7 losses have come against the Rangers. The last time was a 5-0 loss in Washington in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He also lost 2-1 in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals. That's in the past, though, and Holtby is more concerned with helping the Capitals get to the conference finals for the first time in 17 years.
"[Game 7 is] pretty similar [to any other game]," Holtby said. "It's just another game when it comes to goaltending. Shots come the same. Obviously the energy is ramped up and the circumstances are different."
Washington has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons but has lost in the first round three times and the second round three times. Since 2010, they're 3-10 with a chance to close out a series.
"We wanted to groom ourselves as a playoff team, not just making the playoffs," Holtby said."
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Joel Ward
Andre Burakovsky - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Curtis Glencross - Brooks Laich - Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Tim Gleason - Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta
Injured: Eric Fehr (upper body), John Erskine (neck surgery), Dmitry Orlov (wrist)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast
Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Kevin Hayes
Tanner Glass - James Sheppard - J.T. Miller
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Chris Summers, Ryan Bourque, Matt Hunwick
Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)
Status report: Fehr, who has missed 10 games because of an upper-body injury, could be in the lineup. "I haven't really talked to him yet," Trotz said. "I'll talk to the trainer. He skated with us the last couple of days. It's a possibility. But I have to talk to him."
Who's hot: The line of Kuznetsov, Ward and Chimera had three goals and four assists in Game 6. … Despite allowing four goals in Game 6, Holtby has allowed eight goals in the past four games.