Rangers complete series comeback vs. Caps with another 2-1 win in Game 7

Rangers forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan celebrate Stepan's game-winning goal Wednesday in Game 7 of the Blueshirts' 2-1 overtime win over Washington. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Rangers went down three games to one in their second-round series against Washington, Blueshirts players and fans looked to the previous playoffs and a New York team that was resilient and came back from just such a deficit to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. And wouldn’t you know it – the same team, with mostly the same players, wound up doing the same thing after Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Capitals and host Rangers: the Rangers leaned on star goalie Henrik Lundqvist and squeezed out just enough offense – in this case, a game-tying goal from Kevin Hayes, and the overtime winner by Derek Stepan – to push past Washington and set up a showdown with Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final.

Although the Capitals once again tested Lundqvist early and often – outshooting the Blueshirts 15-10 in the opening frame and taking the first lead on captain Alex Ovechkin’s goal – New York not only stayed in it, but fought back. They outshot the Caps 24-13 in the final two regulation periods, and were the better overall possession team on the night. They gave up three power plays to Washington, but got four of their own. They were dominated by the Capitals in the faceoff circle 47-32, but beat the Caps in the takeaway department 9-1.

They weren’t the best team all night long, but the Rangers put up enough of a fight to get them to overtime. And from there, Lundqvist turned aside all eight shots he saw, and Stepan scored on the Blueshirts’ fifth shot of the extra period at 11:24 to complete the series comeback and deny Ovechkin the first trip to the Eastern Final of his 10-year NHL career. Read more

Ovechkin following through on big promise with first goal of Game 7

Caps star Alex Ovechkin scores in the first period Wednesday past Blushirts defenseman Ryan McDonagh in Game 7 of their second-round series. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Prior to Wednesday’s Game 7 between his Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers – a game he guaranteed the Caps would win – superstar winger Alex Ovechkin hadn’t had his best series. But Ovechkin went a long ways toward backing up his words at Madison Square Garden, scoring the first goal of the elimination game on a stellar snap shot.

Ovechkin didn’t produce a single point in his previous four games against the Blueshirts, but with the Caps on the verge of blowing a 3-1 series lead, their captain grabbed a pass from Marcus Johansson and scored at the 12:50 mark of the first period for his fifth playoff goal this year: Read more

Top five Game 7s in the history of the Capitals and Rangers

Stephane Matteau's Game 7 overtime winner made him a household name. (B Bennett/Getty Images)

If you haven’t heard yet, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are set to faceoff in Game 7 Wednesday evening for the fourth time in the history of the two clubs.

Each of the Game 7 meetings between the Capitals and Rangers have occurred within the past seven seasons, but they’re far from the first time the franchises have had to take part in a seventh-game, winner-takes-all contest. Matter of fact, the Rangers took place in the first Game 7 in NHL history when they lost a seventh game to the Boston Bruins in triple overtime for the right to move on to the Stanley Cup final.

Over the course of their nearly 100-year history, the Blueshirts have played in a total of 13 Game 7s, boasting a record of 8-5. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, the Washington Capitals have played in just as many Game 7s over their 40-year history, but have only come out on top four times.

Some of the wins for both sides – as well as some of the losses – have made for legendary NHL moments. These are the five best Game 7s that either team has participated in: Read more

Watch the cinematic trailer for Game 7 between Capitals, Rangers

(via NHL/YouTube)

In every film there has ever been about hockey, there’s one, big showdown that has to happen as the movie draws to a close. The Mighty Ducks had games against the Hawks, Iceland and the varsity team. Goon featured Doug Glatt dropping the gloves with Ross ‘The Boss’ Rhea. And Slap Shot, well, Ned Braden’s on-ice routine helps the Chiefs win the Federal League.

The climactic ending in the second-round series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers hasn’t happened yet. But Wednesday night it’s Game 7 at Madison Square Garden and, as if it were a movie, the game has its own cinematic trailer. Read more

Lightning rely on stingy defense to beat Habs in Game 6, move on to Eastern Final

Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop and Habs counterpart Carey Price shake hands after the Lightning eliminated the Canadiens in Game 6 of their second-round series Tuesday. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Lightning finished the 2014-15 NHL season with the same number of wins as the Montreal Canadiens, but because Tampa Bay had two fewer regulation time losses than Montreal, the Habs won the Atlantic Division and the Bolts finished second. However, as the second-round playoff series between the two teams demonstrated, Tampa’s roster had more balance and scoring prowess and commitment to defense equal to the Canadiens’ – and at no point was that clearer than Tuesday in Game 6, when the Lightning limited Montreal’s chances and made the most of their own en route to winning the game 3-1 and sending the Habs home for the summer with a 4-2 series victory.

The Bolts held the Canadiens to just six shots in each of the first and third periods and 19 on the night. Tampa was the better possession team and only gave Montreal two power play opportunities Tuesday. And although they got a goal from star and captain Steven Stamkos, the Lightning also continued to get goals from players throughout the lineup: Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring with 4:25 left in the opening frame – one of two goals and three points he’d post in Game 6, giving him six goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games – and Ondrej Palat chipped in his third goal of the post-season.

With that type of support at both ends of the ice, Ben Bishop’s job was made easier – but you still have to give the much-maligned Bolts goalie credit for coming through when Montreal did challenge him. He certainly wasn’t perfect in the series, but Bishop didn’t wilt under the heat of the moment and allowed just five goals in Tampa’s four second-round wins. And he retained his sense of humor after the game when he made reference to a P.K. Subban comment earlier in the series:

At the other end of the ice, there was Canadiens MVP Carey Price. Unlike so many nights this season, Price couldn’t singlehandedly save the Canadiens in Game 6. But his .889 save percentage wasn’t the reason why Montreal lost. Their lack of support on offense for him is the reason for their elimination. Read more

A brief history of guaranteeing victory in sports

Matt Larkin
Mark Messier. (Glenn Cratty /Allsport)

Did Alex Ovechkin really guarantee a victory for his Washington Capitals in Game 7 against the New York Rangers, which goes down Wednesday?

As a media member, I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a stretch. “We’re going to come back and win the series,” Ovechkin told reporters Sunday night. “We’re gonna play our game, and we’re gonna come back, and we’re gonna play Montreal or Tampa.”

Not the most emphatic statement in the world, even if it officially meets the requirements of a guarantee. And what is a guarantee in sports, really? What athlete in his right mind won’t publicly give his team a vote of confidence when prompted to discuss an upcoming game? The guarantees don’t have to mean much, but we decide that they do, probably because they make for exciting narratives. Nothing wrong with that. Sports and sports storylines are fun. It is interesting, though, that certain quotes are universally declared “guarantees,” living on forever, and others are lost in the ocean of pre-and post-game interviews. For whatever reason, Ovie’s statement gained admission to the Sports Guarantee Pantheon. It’ll be remembered, especially if the Caps win Game 7 at Madison Square Garden and still if they lose.

What are some other famous guarantees in sports history? Here’s a brief rundown (with honorable mention to Babe Ruth and Owen Nolan. They called their shots. This list is about calling victories):

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Five players who could play hero in Capitals, Rangers Game 7 battle

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops a shot by Washington's Troy Brouwer Sunday in Game 6 of New York's second-round series with the Capitals. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Since the 2004-05 lockout, no two teams have faced off against each other in more Game 7s than the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.

Three times in the past ten post-seasons the two clubs have gone head-to-head in a one-game, winner-takes-all contest, and Wednesday night the clubs will get their fourth go-round at playing in a Game 7 against each other.

If the Rangers emerge victorious it will be the third time post-lockout they’ve dropped the Capitals in seven games, while Washington will be looking to avenge the 5-0 Game 7 loss they were handed by New York in 2013. As is the case with every seventh game in NHL history, there is always one hero, a player who steps up and puts his team on his shoulders and propels them to victory.

Already winners of one Game 7 this post-season, the Capitals won thanks to late-game heroics by Evgeny Kuznetsov in the first round against the New York Islanders. Now taking on the Islanders’ crosstown rival Rangers, they’re going to need someone else to step up if Barry Trotz wants to head to his first career conference final. Regardless of the outcome, though, there will be a hero. Here are five potential candidates: Read more

The heat is on for superstars Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid

Alex Ovechkin  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

When Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz compared Alex Ovechkin to Hall of Famer Mark Messier after Game 1 of his team’s second-round series against the New York Rangers, he probably didn’t realize how soon his captain would have to prove him right.

Messier and Ovechkin are the only two players in NHL history to be named a first-team all-star at two different positions. Like Messier, Ovechkin has a rare blend of speed, skill and physicality. And now, like Messier, Ovechkin is putting himself out there by guaranteeing a victory, the way Messier did 21 years ago for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils. Read more