Washington at Tampa Bay
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
TAMPA – The Washington Capitals look to put past playoff failures in the rear-view mirror when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night for a deciding Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Capitals, who sit one win away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals since 1998 after a 3-0 victory Monday, have a 4-11 record overall and a 1-3 mark on the road all-time in Game 7s while the Lightning are 5-2 (3-0 at home) in deciding contests.
“I don’t think there’s (another) team I’ve ever had that I’d want to go into Game 7 with,” Washington’s Barry Trotz, who has coached 107 playoff contests in his career and 1,524 in the regular season, told reporters. “This team has done a lot of special things this year. It’s grown. It continues to do that. What an opportunity. … We’ll see if we can earn the right to keep playing.” While Washington’s superstar Alex Ovechkin looks to take his team to the Cup finals for the first time in his tenure, fellow captain Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay (four goals in the series) hopes to make it for the second time in four seasons with Vegas awaiting the winner for Game 1 on Monday. The Lightning will have raise their level of play after being outshot by an average of more that 10 per game in the series and take pressure off goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has turned aside 131 of 139 attempts while winning three of the last four contests. “We wish we would have wrapped it up (Monday),” Tampa Bay right wing Ryan Callahan told reporters. “At the end of the day, Game 7s are fun. You enjoy it. This is why you battle for home-ice advantage throughout the regular season.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, Sportsnet One, TVA
ABOUT THE CAPITALS: Washington outhit the Lightning 39-19, many of those leading to its 17 takeaways in Game 6, and defenseman Brooks Orpik told reporters: “You try to empty the tank as much as you can. That’s probably one area where we have an edge is the size and physical play.” Right wing T.J. Oshie scored two of the three goals Monday and has seven points in the series while Nicklas Backstrom set up a pair of tallies for his first points in three games since returning from a hand injury. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov had an assist Monday to extend his point streak to nine games and has 23 overall – a franchise playoff record.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay has been outshot 209-145 in the series, managing only 24 in Game 6, and have not scored a goal since 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5 on Saturday night. “We’ve got to execute, that’s part of it,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “People say executing is passing the puck and putting it on the tape. Executing is getting pucks on net, putting them where you can get it back. We just haven’t been near aggressive enough at that.” Right wing Nikita Kucherov, who leads the team with 17 points in the playoffs, and Stamkos each managed one shot on net in Game 6 while combining for a minus-3 rating.
1. Tampa Bay F Tyler Johnson has not scored a goal in the last nine games after recording three in the first seven playoff contests.
2. Washington G Braden Holtby notched his fifth career shutout in the playoffs Monday and owns a .929 save percentage in 76 postseason games.
3. The Capitals have killed off all three power plays in the last two games after giving up six in 14 attempts over the first four contests of the series.