Len Redkoles/Getty Images North America
With the Capitals set to host the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night in what promises to be an unforgettable Game 7, the 15th in the 42-year history of the franchise, NoVa Caps is looking back at that history to remember some of the best and, yes, even the worst, Game 7’s.
As mentioned above, tomorrow night’s game will be the 15th Game 7 in the history of the Capitals, and it is arguably, the most important. The first ever Game 7 the Caps played in was against the New York islanders in the famous Easter Epic, a game that required FOUR overtime periods to decide the winner. New York’s Pat Lafontaine fired a shot past Caps goalie Bob Mason to give the Isles the series win. The game was aptly named, because it stretched into the early hours of Easter, and as the above suggests, was clearly an unforgettable game, despite its result.
The Capitals next Game 7 is one that remains one of the most memorable games in franchise history. It came just under one year after the Easter Epic, on April 16, 1988 (the Easter Epic was played on April 18), against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Patrick Division Semifinals. The Capitals and Flyers were deadlocked at 4-4 heading into overtime, with both teams trading chances. But the Caps would earn the victory on a breakaway goal from recently-acquired forward Dale Hunter who scored to end the game. It remains one of the iconic goals (of which there have been many) in team history and likely started what has become one of the best rivalries in hockey.
But the Capitals have had their fair share of good and bad luck in recent years. In 1992, 1995, and 2009, the Capitals were defeated by the Penguins in what remain some of the most heartbreaking series in recent memory. The most recent Game 7 loss to the Black and Gold, on May 13, 2009, was especially tough, as the Penguins would go on to capture Lord Stanley’s mug. The Capitals have won three Game 7’s at home (1988 against Phildelphia, 2009 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the New York Rangers, and 2015 against the New York Islanders).
The Game 7 against the Rangers in 2009 remains one of the best games ever played at the Verizon Center. With both teams struggling to beat the other’s netminder, three-time Stanley Cup champion Sergei Fedorov, carried the puck into the Rangers’ zone, slammed on the brakes at the top of the faceoff dot, and let go a wrister past Henrik Lundqvist to end the series (above). Some say it is the loudest the Verizon Center has ever been. Another is Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal in which former Capitals forward Joel Ward scored the overtime winner to knock off the then-defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. And who can forget current Capital Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal in Game 7 against the New York Islanders in 2015?
As one can see, the Capitals are no strangers to Game 7, and with Braden Holtby as their starting netminder, they should feel confident about their chances. The former fourth-round pick (93rd in 2008) has a 2.11 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in five career Game 7’s, while captain Alex Ovechkin has six points (three goals, three assists) in nine career Game 7’s. Tomorrow’s game also marks the fourth time the Caps and Pens have met in a decisive seventh game. After Monday night’s win, the Caps have now forced a Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in a series four times.
Complete List of Capitals Game 7’s and Results:
- April 18, 1987: Patrick Division Semifinal against the New York Islanders, lost 3-2 in 4OT
- April 16, 1988: Patrick Division Semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers, won 5-4 in OT
- April 30, 1988: Patrick Division Final against the New Jersey Devils, lost 3-2
- May 1, 1992: Patrick Division Semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, lost 3-1
- May 18, 1995: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, lost 3-0
- April 22, 2008: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Philadelphia Flyers, lost 3-2 OT
- April 28, 2009: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the New York Rangers, won 2-1 OT
- May 13, 2009: Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, lost 6-2
- April 28, 2010: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Montreal Canadiens, lost 2-1
- April 25, 2012: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Boston Bruins, won 2-1 OT
- May 12, 2012: Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New York Rangers, lost 2-1
- May 13, 2013: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the New York Rangers, lost 5-0
- April 27, 2015: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the New York Islanders, won 2-1
- May 13, 2015: Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New York Rangers, lost 2-1 OT
- May 10, 2017: Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, TBD
By Michael Fleetwood