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5 Keys: Penguins at Capitals, Game 7

Scoring first, play of goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury, Braden Holtby among factors in winner-take-all situation for spot in Eastern Conference Final

by Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

PENGUINS at CAPITALS

7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports

Best-of-7 series tied 3-3

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Wednesday. The winner will advance to play the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Capitals have won two consecutive games to force Game 7 after the Penguins took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. They have not advanced past the second round since 1998.

The Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champion, last played a Game 7 last year, when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Here are 5 keys to Game 7:

 

1. Score first

In Game 7, the team that scores first is 124-42 all-time, including a 5-0 mark in 2016.

The Capitals are 4-1 during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs when scoring first; the Penguins are 6-1.

 

2. Justin Williams

In seven career NHL Game 7s, Williams, often referred to as "Mr. Game 7," is 7-0, with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists). He has more points in Game 7s than any player in in NHL history, and he's tied with Glenn Anderson for the most Game 7 goals. 

"It's going to be a fight of will and I can tell you one thing: I'm going to give everything I have tonight and make sure I don't let my teammates down and everyone in this room is going to do the same and we'll be fine," Williams said.

 

3. Braden Holtby vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Both Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury are 2-3 in five NHL Game 7s.

Holtby has 2.11 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in his Game 7s; Fleury has a 2.29 GAA and .901 save percentage in his.

Fleury allowed nine goals in the first four games of the series but let in nine in the past two games. Holtby's fortunes have gone the other way; after allowing 11 goals in the first four games, he's allowed four in the past two.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Holtby shuts the door on Rust's attempt

 

4. Just play

Pittsburgh led the series 3-1 after Game 4 but now faces potential elimination in Game 7. Coach Mike Sullivan is trusting his players to play the way they know and believes his difference makers will step up when they need to.

"We're trying to take each game as it comes," he said. "We're trying to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. We can't change what happened in the past. We can't control what's going to happen moving forward. All we can do is control the moment and that's where all of these players' mindsets are at, that's where our team mindset is at. We're excited to play."

 

5. Stay confident

The Capitals forced a Game 7 with wins in two elimination games and though they might have home-ice advantage and momentum, nothing is being taken for granted.

"With the momentum on the side from the past couple games, I think we still will have that confidence and that belief in our game," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. "I don't know if relax is right, but I think just belief in what we can do and playing our style of hockey."

 

Penguins projected lineup

Conor Sheary -- Sidney Crosby -- Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel -- Evgeni Malkin -- Bryan Rust

Carl Hagelin -- Nick Bonino -- Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz -- Matt Cullen -- Carter Rowney

Brian Dumoulin -- Ron Hainsey

Olli Maatta -- Chad Ruhwedel

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Marc-Andre Fleury

Matt Murray

Scratched: Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson, Josh Archibald, Mark Streit, Oskar Sundqvist, Cameron Gaunce, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Derrick Pouliot, Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon, David Warsofsky, Frank Corrado, Kevin Porter, Garrett Wilson, Tom Sestito, Tristan Jarry

Injured: Kris Letang (upper body), Trevor Daley (lower body)

 

Capitals projected lineup

Andre Burakovsky -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Alex Ovechkin -- Lars Eller -- Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle

Brooks Orpik -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Karl Alzner

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Brett Connolly, Taylor Chorney, Paul Carey

Injured: None

 

Status report

Murray was a full participant at the morning skate and will be Fleury's backup, replacing Jarry. He had been practicing on his own for several days. It will be his first time in the lineup since he sustained a lower-body injury in warmups before Game 1 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 12. Daley is expected to miss a second consecutive game because of a lower-body injury. Rowney is expected to play in place of Kuhnhackl.

 

Who's hot

Malkin has an NHL-high 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 11 games. Kessel has 13 points, (five goals, eight assists). Guentzel leads all players with nine playoff goals. … Backstrom leads the Capitals in the playoffs with 13 points (six goals, seven assists). Oshie has 12 points (four goals, eight assists). Williams has nine points (three goals, six assists).

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