There’s only been one Game 7 between the Capitals and Islanders, but it has stood the test of time — lots and lots and lots of time — as one of the great games in postseason annals.
The “Easter Epic” in 1987 between Washington and New York lasted long into the night before Pat Lafontaine finally won it for the Islanders in the fourth overtime, giving his team a 3-2 victory in the game and a 4-3 win in the first-round series. New York’s Kelly Hrudey made 73 saves in what is still the longest Game 7 in NHL history.
Those two teams will play another Game 7 on Monday night — the first winner-take-all contest of this year’s postseason. The Capitals and Islanders both finished the regular season with 101 points, and they’ve both found time to score 14 goals through the first six games of this series — when they haven’t been busy trying to slam each other into the glass.
“It’s been good,” Washington forward Joel Ward said. “A traditional series, regardless of who you’re playing, is going to be like that. You’re going to get some hits, you’re going to get some feistiness, you’re going to get some whacks. That’s what happens when you play the same (team) over and over, you’re going to have a little hatred. It’s coming down to one game, so we’re excited.”
The Islanders forced this seventh game with a 3-1 win in Game 6 on Saturday.
Lafontaine’s goal was part of a glorious stretch for the Islanders during the 1980s that included four consecutive Stanley Cups earlier that decade. But they’ve advanced past the first round only once since. That was in 1993, when they again eliminated Washington before edging Pittsburgh in another overtime Game 7 to reach the conference finals.
The Capitals had never played a Game 7 until that 1987 matchup with the Islanders. Now, the franchise is used to it.
Monday will be Washington’s eighth Game 7 in the last eight years. Only Boston (nine) has played more in that span, according to STATS.
The Capitals are 3-9 in Game 7s, and only 2-7 at home. That includes that night 28 years ago when Game 7 turned into Game 8 and then Game 9.
A look at Monday’s games. All times EDT:
Lightning at Red Wings, Detroit leads 3-2, Game 6, 7 p.m., CNBC
TIME AND SPACE: Tampa Bay led the league in goals during the regular season, but has been shut out twice in this series. Coach Jon Cooper was asked Sunday if the Red Wings might be getting away with interference. “Well, there’s 30 teams in the league and nobody does it more than the Detroit Red Wings, hands down,” Cooper said. “The old saying, if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’ — they do it to a ‘T.’ My message to our guys is you’ve got to suck it up, you’ve got to fight through it. We’ve got to bring a gun to a knife fight. That’s how it has to go. So good on them. We’ve got to be better.”
CALM IN NET: Aside from a three-goal flurry at the end of Game 4, Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek has shut out the Lightning over the last three games. The 23-year-old Mrazek also had 44 saves in the series opener. “His first year in the American (Hockey) League, he wins the Calder Cup. You don’t win the Calder Cup by accident,” Babcock said. “Then every time we called him up, he played good. So to me he’s just one of these guys that must be good. … I don’t know enough about the tactical skill and all that stuff, I just know it doesn’t go in when he’s in there.”
Islanders at Capitals, tied 3-3, Game 7, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
TRENDS: The Capitals and Islanders would both like to change some things about how this series has gone. New York is 0 for 13 on the power play.
“Maybe Game 7’s the game that when you need the big goal on the power play, it comes through for us,” coach Jack Capuano said.
The Capitals, meanwhile, have allowed the first goal in all but one of the six games — and four of those New York opening tallies came fairly early in the first period.
“Would I like to score more in the first period? Absolutely. Right from the get-go, we were chasing this series from Game 1,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “But we put ourselves in position to close it out (Saturday) and we didn’t. Now we get another chance to do it. It’s Game 7. Don’t be scared of it, just go through it.”
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