A singular theme emanated from the visiting dressing room Sunday night:
Henrik Lundqvist dragged the New York Rangers to Game 7 of the Metropolitan Division Final.
"No doubt," Alain Vigneault told reporters after the Rangers' 4-3 win over the Capitals in Game 6. Lundqvist made 42 saves--25 in the final two periods--as Washington attempted to come back from 2-0 and 4-1 deficits."He was a difference maker."
Indeed as the longtime rivals meet in sports' ultimate game for thethe third time in four years, Lundqvist is amongst the NHL playoff leaders in goaltender wins (7), goals against average (1.68), and save percentage (.940).
"We were kind of on our heels," said Chris Kreider, who scored the first two goals of Game 6. "We need to get on our toes and take away that time and space they had. We knew they were going to have a push but we obviously gave them a little too much. Give credit to our defense and our goaltender and some of our forwards coming up with some big blocks, but, yeah, definitely Henrik Lundqvist was a big part of the reason we were able to pull that one out."
So, yes, Lundqvist has become a significant factor in recording70 saves on 74 shots in Games 5-6, forcinganother chapter will be written in the rivalry when the Rangers and Capitals meet Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"We wanted a chance and we gave ourselves a chance," Vigneault said. "We came here to compete and I thought we did that. You had two good teams going at it and you got another one goal game with great goaltending performances."
So what should be expected Wednesday night?
Entering the fourth Game 7 between the franchises since 2009, the Rangers have won two-of-the-three previous win-or-go-home-for-the-summer games. In the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinal, the Rangers topped the Capitals 2-1 at Madison Square Garden. The next year, the Rangers routed the Capitals 5-0 at Verizon Center.
Washington's only Game 7 win over the Rangers occurred in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. According to the NHL, the Rangers have won five straight Game 7s since that loss.
Should the Rangers win, it would be the second time in as many playoff seasons that they won the Metropolitan Division Final after falling behind 1-3.
"We've had some experience in the past," Vigneault told reporters in a conference call Monday afternoon."We know we need to stay in the moment and focus on the process.We crawled our way back in, we're still breathing. We found a way to win Game 5 [and] Game 6. We're going to try to find a way to win Game 7."
Neither team practiced Monday. The Rangers practiced at their Training Facility Tuesday, while the Capitals gathered at their suburban Virginia practice facility before traveling to New York.
You can follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman