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May 13 vs. New York Rangers at Verizon Center
Time: 8:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet, NBCSN
Radio: 1500 AM and 106.7 The Fan FM/Capitals Radio Network
Washington Capitals (26-18-3)
New York Rangers (28-13-5)
Game 6, Eastern Conference quarterfinal series (series even, 3-3)
For the third time in the last five springs and the second year in a row, the Washington capitals and the New York Rangers will require a seventh and deciding game to settle a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series.
Washington will host the Rangers in Game 7 on Monday night at Verizon Center.
“Whatever it takes,” says Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy. “That’s why it’s a best-of-seven series. It’s not always going to be four games, not always going to be five. It may take seven.
“Our focus right now is Game 7. Going forward, you can’t look at what happened and what’s behind you.”
New York forced the deciding game by edging the Caps 1-0 at Madison Square Garden in Game 6 on Sunday. The two teams will have just over 24 hours between the end of Sunday’s game and the start of Monday’s.
“We have to regroup,” says Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who has a 1.77 GAA and a .938 save pct. in this series. “We knew this had the possibility of going seven. It was a hard-fought battle [Sunday] and games on back-to-back nights, we’ll be prepared. We’ll regroup [Monday].”
The winner of Monday’s Game 7 will earn the right to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and will play the winner of the Boston-Toronto series. The Bruins are hosting the Maple Leafs in another Game 7 on Monday night in Boston.
New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves to earn the seventh shutout of his Stanley Cup playoff career and his second against the Capitals. Lundqvist blanked the Caps by a 1-0 score in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the two teams on April 18, 2009.
Washington came back to shutout Lundqvist and the Rangers by a 4-0 count in the game immediately following that shutout just over four years ago. Lundqvist is 1-5 in the games immediately following his six playoff shutouts, including five straight defeats. His lone playoff win following a shutout came on April 18, 2007 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Washington’s two major concerns heading into Game 7 are discipline and scoring. The Caps have faced 26 shorthanded situations – including three 5-on-3 power plays – in the six games of this series. The Caps have been shorthanded more than any other team in the playoffs.
In Sunday’s Game 6, the Caps had no power plays to five for the Rangers, marking the first time in 211 Stanley Cup playoff games in franchise history in which the Caps have not had a power play while their opponent has had five or more.
“I look at it kind of like that bird that sits on your shoulder that’s always chirping in your ear,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks of the need to be reminded to be disciplined during the game. “You need that. It’s one of those aspects of the game, one of the details in the game that always needs to be reiterated. Especially in the playoffs when emotions run high and frustrations run high, we need to be a more disciplined hockey team.”
The Capitals have had a chance to put their vaunted power play unit on the ice only twice in the last two games, and they’ve scored just one even-strength goal in the last 141 minutes and 53 seconds of the series.
Each of the Capitals’ last two wins in the series came in overtime in games in which they had trailed throughout. Washington has not owned a lead at any point of a game since it was briefly in front (for 8 minutes and 4 seconds) during the first period of Game 3 in New York. The Caps have not had a two-goal lead at any point since winning Game 1 by a 3-1 score.
“You’ve got to give New York credit,” said Hendricks after game 6. “They did a good job of holding us at their blueline. There was opportunity for us to put pucks in deep and we didn’t do that. We tried to rely on our skill. A lot of times it works, tonight it didn’t I give New York credit on that. We need to get back to the basics [Monday] and try to outwork them because they’re a hard-working hockey team.”
Although Washington has generated far more even-strength shot attempts (319 to 226) than New York in the last five games, it has scored just seven even-strength goals in those five games. Six of those seven were scored in losses in Games 3 and 4 at New York.
“I think we didn’t control the puck as we used to,” says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom in explaining why the Caps had difficulty establishing and maintaining a forecheck in Game 6. “And we didn’t dump the puck good enough. So we’ve got to do a better job of that tomorrow.”
Washington is no stranger to Game 7. Seven of the Capitals’ last nine playoff series have gone the distance.
“We were in this situation last year as well,” notes Backstrom. “Hopefully we can take advantage of that. There are two good teams out there.”
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