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Rangers put Game 7 home streak on line vs. Lightning

by Dan Rosen /



Best-of-7 series tied 3-3

The New York Rangers will put their perfect home record in Game 7 on the line Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final against either the Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks.

"There's nothing calm about a Game 7 with a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Final, but we're confident," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said Thursday. "Obviously this has a lot more at stake, but we've had a lot of success in these games and we'll take that confidence into our building."

The road team has won four of the six games in the Eastern Conference Final, but the Rangers are 7-0 in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, including 4-0 since 2012.

"You're definitely nervous, but it comes down to teamwork," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "I feel comfortable when we're in the right place, when we're doing good things out there. I feel like it's easier for me to focus on my game, and that's a big part of winning these games too. You focus on the team concept and the things that brought you to this moment."

Lundqvist has won an NHL-record six consecutive Game 7s, and he can set a League record for most Game 7 wins by a goalie if he defeats the Lightning. He is 6-1 with an NHL-record 0.97 goals-against average and .966 save percentage in Game 7s.

New York's first-line forwards Derick Brassard (hat trick, five points), Rick Nash (goal, four points) and J.T. Miller (goal, four points) combined for 13 points in a 7-3 win in Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday. Lundqvist made 36 saves.

"He's our best player," Staal said of Lundqvist. "When you're in situations like this, you know he's going to be there competing and throwing his best game on the ice. Obviously we're happy to have him in our crease."

New York can set an NHL record for most consecutive Game 7 wins with a victory. The Rangers' streak of six in a row ties them with the Detroit Red Wings (1949-64) and Boston Bruins (1983-94) for most in history.

The streak dates to 2012, and this is the first time the Rangers are playing the Lightning in a Game 7. Tampa Bay has won two of three games at the Garden in this series, outscoring the Rangers 9-4, including 2-0 in Game 5.

"I kind of think history is a little irrelevant," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. "It's all different. You're not playing the same teams. You're not playing in the same situations. We've had some success [at Madison Square Garden] this series. We just have to play our game and focus on what we need to do."

The Lightning and Rangers each have won a Game 7 this postseason.

Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop made 31 saves in a 2-0 win against the Red Wings in the first round. He became the first goalie to have a shutout in his first Game 7 since Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price did it in 2008 against the Boston Bruins.

"You can say you've been there and you can say you've done that, so maybe you have a little confidence behind you having one under your belt," Bishop said. "But that's about it. It's a completely different team, a completely different menu."

Bishop was pulled in Game 6 of this series after allowing five goals on 26 shots. He has allowed five goals in each of the three losses in the series. But he has given up four goals in three games at the Garden, and he is 6-1 with a .945 save percentage and 1.42 GAA in the game after a loss in this year's playoffs.

"It's another game; that's how I'm looking at it," Bishop said. "You don't change anything, you don't prepare differently. You do it the same way you've been doing it all year, since training camp. Obviously it has a lot more meaning to it, but you can't look at it like that."

Lundqvist made 35 saves to help the Rangers reach the conference final with a 2-1 win against Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the second round.

The Rangers are 4-0 when facing elimination in this postseason, and they are 15-3 when facing elimination since 2012. Lundqvist has been in net for all 18 of those games.

"I think you can draw from your preparation and the way you have handled it," Staal said, "but once that puck drops it's two teams trying to do everything they can to win a game."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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