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Strong finish boosts Capitals' confidence for Game 7

by Katie Brown / NHL.com

WASHINGTON -- Throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Washington Capitals have talked about how things were different this year. They were a different team, a new team, they said.

Surely this new team would be capable of closing out a series at home.

The New York Rangers defeated the Capitals 4-3 at Verizon Center on Sunday, forcing Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

After jumping out to a 3-1 lead on the Rangers in the best-of-7 series, these new Capitals have lost two straight for the first time since mid-March, and as a result they still are one win away from their first Eastern Conference Final appearance in 17 years.

"I know this team has a lot of character, and it showed all year," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I am not going to tell you anything different than I told them. Probably not the path when you are (ahead) 3-1 you want to take, but at the same time, it is a great opportunity in Game 7 to find out."

Washington missed its first chance to advance in Game 5 on Friday, losing 2-1 in overtime at Madison Square Garden after leading 1-0 with less than two minutes left in regulation.

After failing to close out the series in Game 6, the Capitals are 4-1 following a loss this postseason; they had won four consecutive home games in that situation before Sunday.

Wednesday will be the fifth time in the Capitals' past five postseason appearances that they will play in a Game 7. Their record is 4-9 in Game 7s since 1987. The Rangers have won five consecutive Game 7s since 2012.

It will be the ninth Game 7 for Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green with the Capitals. Washington has played New York in a Game 7 three times in the past seven seasons; the Rangers have won the past two, in 2012 and 2013.

But these Capitals aren't worried about that. That's the past, and they know they have one last chance to win this series.

"That's a long time ago," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "Different team, different style, different everything. The only thing that's really the same is the logo on our chest. We're focused on what we have here as a group. We have a ton of character in this room, a ton of will to win. ... We're relentless."

Washington has already played one Game 7 this postseason, on April 27 against the New York Islanders in the first round. The Capitals won 2-1 to advance.

In that Game 7, it was a Russian who pushed the Capitals forward, but it wasn't the one that everyone expected it to be. It was Evgeny Kuznetsov, not Ovechkin, who scored the game-winning goal that night.

On Sunday, it again was Kuznetsov who stepped up, scoring to get the Capitals' comeback going after they fell behind 4-1 early in the third period.

Trotz was looking for a spark after New York went ahead 2-0 in the first period, so he jumbled his forward lines a bit.

"When you're down, you've got to try something, you've got to find a way," forward Joel Ward said. "Obviously what we were doing wasn't working, we were down by a couple, so we just did something to try and change it up."

Trotz put Kuznetsov on a line with Ward and Jason Chimera, and each member of the newly formed line scored. Chimera broke through in the second period for Washington's first goal of the game, and Kuznetsov and Ward each scored in the third period.

Washington dominated the third period as it attempted to rally from the three-goal deficit, outshooting New York 10-4. In the final 14:56, the Capitals had 34 shot attempts; the Rangers had none.

"Game 7 is a big one, and one that we're going to use the momentum we got in the third period," Holtby said.

The Capitals know whatever they bring to New York in Game 7 has to be enough to win.

"Play our best game, it's nothing else," forward Marcus Johansson said. "We have to win and we know we can do it and we know what we can do. So we just have to go out and do it."

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