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Lightning view strong start as crucial to Game 7

by Corey Long / NHL.com

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said the records from the first six games of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings can be thrown out now.

The two Atlantic Division rivals are tied 3-3 in their best-of-7 series and will play a winner-take-all Game 7 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, FS-D, SUN). The winner will advance to play the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.

"This is Game 7 and we worked extremely hard to get ourselves in this position, so everything that happened in the first six games isn't important once that puck drops," Stamkos said. "We worked hard all season to have this opportunity to play this game on home ice and we'll have to be better than we have been up to this point."

Home ice has meant very little in this series. Each team is 1-2 at home and Detroit dominated Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena on Saturday in Game 5 with a 4-0 win. The Lightning, however, were the best team at home during the regular season and are happy to have that advantage Wednesday.

"I think it shows how evenly matched these two teams are," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "There hasn't been carryover from game to game and it's clear that they have a good team and we have a good team. Either team can win anywhere."

The key for both teams will be a strong start. The team that has scored first has won five of the six games. The Lightning scored their first goal at 3:47 in the first period of Game 6 and earned a 5-2 win.

"It seems that you get the lead and the team that falls behind has to push and change their structure," Stamkos said. "And with the exception of Game 4 it hasn't resulted in a comeback."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper says he believes his players feel like they have already been through a Game 7 after their performance Monday with the season on the line.

"I know I felt like it was a Game 7 and we had our backs against the wall," Cooper said. "And we came out and performed like it. I wouldn't expect anything different from us Wednesday and I expect Detroit will also play with the same urgency."

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