Washington's Alexander Ovechkin is all smiles as Capitals look to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Rangers in tonight's seventh game of their series at the Verizon Center. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
"He can't play every game like a god. He can't save the game all the time." Even though those statements are true, Alexander Ovechkin fired the first shots of Game 7 between his Washington Capitals and New York Rangers from off the ice Sunday afternoon.
The NHL's leading goal scorer in the regular season had that to say about Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist after Washington's 5-3 win over the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden Sunday, setting the stage for tonight's pivotal winner-take-all matchup at the Verizon Center. Should Washington win, they will advance to the second round to take on either the Devils or Penguins, while the Rangers will lock horns with the Boston Bruins and Vezina Trophy finalist Tim Thomas should they prevail.
After many fans left the Garden following the second intermission of Game 6, where the Capitals had built a 5-1 lead after two periods, Scott Gomez kept things in perspective. "That's over with now," said the Rangers' big free agent signing of 2007. "One game on the road. Anything can happen." The Rangers will have head coach John Tortorella back behind the bench after serving a suspension during Game 6 for throwing a water bottle at a fan during Friday's Game 5 in Washington, an incident that Ranger president Glen Sather attributed to lax security in the arena.
Tonight's Game 7 is the first for the Rangers since they won the Stanley Cup against Vancouver in 1994, ending a much-publicized 54-year drought. However, the Blueshirts have not won any of their four previous seventh games on the road, so something has to give. "The pressure's on them," said captain Chris Drury. "They've smoked us twice, they're going home, and everybody's saying it's over."
The Rangers come into the nation's capital having lost their last two games after taking a 3-1 series lead, and they have never blown a lead that big. "When you get booed in your own building all year long, you change coaches, you go through a lot of stuff, make the playoffs the second-to-last game of the year, we're ready for anything," stated Drury.
It all comes down to tonight. Hopefully Lundqvist and the Rangers are ready for another miraculous outing.