The Tampa Bay Lightning will have a second chance to finish off the New York Rangers and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2004 when they play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
The Rangers avoided elimination with a 7-3 win in Game 6 in Tampa on Tuesday. The best-of-7 series is tied 3-3.
Tampa Bay has answered the challenge when faced with adversity throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning rallied for a 3-2 win in Game 4 of the first round at the Detroit Red Wings to avoid going down 3-1 in that best-of-7 series. And facing elimination Tampa Bay put together a strong performance in a 5-2 win in Detroit in Game 6 before closing the series with a 2-0 win in Game 7 at home.
Going through and winning that type of a series is an experience that Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman hopes will help the Lightning on Friday.
"I think it was useful for this group," Hedman said Wednesday. "It was the first Game 7 for a lot of guys in the NHL, and we had our backs against the wall in that series. We had to go into Game 6 in Detroit and win there to bring it to Game 7. And just the way we played in those two games I think showed a lot about how we need to play to be successful."
There are some players in the Lightning locker room who have had success in these situations prior to this season. Defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Brian Boyle, former Rangers, have never lost a Game 7.
And then there is the core of the Lightning, which coach Jon Cooper figures to be too young to worry about the Rangers' 7-0 all-time record at home in Game 7.
"Our group's so young. … They're too busy playing video games," Cooper said. "In all seriousness, though, I think it is to me and to our team, their 7-0 record, or whatever it is, that hasn't happened against us. Everything is in the past. It's like the first six games of this series; when you really think about it, do they mean anything? They really don't. It's just it's come down to a one-game series. Game 7 is the only one that matters."
And the Lightning can feel confident about their record against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. They have won five of six games there during the past two seasons, including the playoffs.
"We really like the way we've played in New York in this series so far," Hedman said. "We know we lost the first one but won the next two in there. So we know we can beat them in New York, and that's going to be our mindset."
Cooper said he's happy the Lightning have an extra day of rest to deal with the physical and emotional strains of the series. Among the bigger beneficiaries could be forward Cedric Paquette, who did not play in Game 6 because of a hand injury.
"I think through a playoff series, especially when you get to the conference finals, people have all sorts of things wrong with them," Cooper said. "I'm sure the Rangers have guys that things are going on with them that's not coming out to the media. So it's probably happening to both teams. As I said, this extra day for us is definitely a benefit."