If you haven’t heard yet, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are set to faceoff in Game 7 Wednesday evening for the fourth time in the history of the two clubs.
Each of the Game 7 meetings between the Capitals and Rangers have occurred within the past seven seasons, but they’re far from the first time the franchises have had to take part in a seventh-game, winner-takes-all contest. Matter of fact, the Rangers took place in the first Game 7 in NHL history when they lost a seventh game to the Boston Bruins in triple overtime for the right to move on to the Stanley Cup final.
Over the course of their nearly 100-year history, the Blueshirts have played in a total of 13 Game 7s, boasting a record of 8-5. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, the Washington Capitals have played in just as many Game 7s over their 40-year history, but have only come out on top four times.
Some of the wins for both sides – as well as some of the losses – have made for legendary NHL moments. These are the five best Game 7s that either team has participated in:
5. April 28, 2009 – Washington Capitals 2, New York Rangers 1
This game is notable for two reasons: it was the first time the two teams had met in a Game 7 and it was the last time Sergei Fedorov would score a goal in the NHL. Little did anyone know that it would be his last, let alone that he would be the Game 7 hero scoring the winner with five minutes remaining in the third period.
The seven-game set between the Capitals and Rangers was one of the first times the new look Capitals showed the ability many thought they had. Like this season’s Rangers, however, the Capitals found themselves in a hole early on in the series.
Through four games of the series, New York had managed to stifle Washington’s offense and appeared as if they were about to knock out the Southeast Division champions. Entering Game 5 down 3-1 in the series, the Capitals rattled off a 4-0 shutout, a 5-3 victory in Game 6 and entered the seventh game with all the momentum.
After two periods, the clubs had played to a 1-1 draw, but Fedorov’s goal – the 52nd playoff goal of his career and the last time he found the back of the net in the NHL – stood as the winner, coming at 15:01 of the final frame.
4. June 14, 1994 – New York Rangers 3, Vancouver Canucks 2
The game itself pales in comparison to the iconic images that came from the celebration, but the 1994 Stanley Cup final went to seven games with the Rangers coming out on top and ending a 54-year Cup drought.
New York jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Trevor Linden made the score close with a shorthanded marker just five minutes into the second frame. Mark Messier, who had earlier in the post-season guaranteed a Game 6 victory over the New Jersey Devils, scored with the extra man shortly after the midway mark of the frame. Linden would tally again in the third, but it wouldn’t be enough.
During the Rangers’ celebration, Linden’s post-game hug with Kirk McLean became a lasting image for the Canucks. Messier’s receiving of the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman, complete with huge displays of emotion, has become synonymous with the Stanley Cup presentation.
3. April 25, 2012 – Washington Capitals 2, Boston Bruins 1 (OT)
Talk about punch and counterpunch.
Over the course of the seven-game series, only once did a team win back-to-back games, and that didn’t occur until Games 4 and 5 of the series. In the end, that made all the difference for the Capitals.
Game 7 itself stands out among the rest of Washington’s seventh games because it was one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. No one expected the Capitals to beat a powerful Bruins squad that had just one season earlier won the Stanley Cup and few expected that of all the firepower the Capitals may have boasted that Joel Ward would be the one to pot the game- and series-winning goal in overtime.
Ward’s goal, which came less than three minutes into the extra frame, pushed the Capitals on to the second round where they met the New York Rangers and, you guessed it, lost in seven games.
2. May 27, 1994 – New York Rangers 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (2OT)
When the NHL created their fantastic ‘History Will Be Made’ series of commercials, there’s no wonder this game was one of the first to be cooked up by the brilliant minds behind the campaign. The goal, the call – “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!” – and the circumstances made the moment about as perfect as they come in hockey.
The series itself saw the Rangers win Game 6 – the famous Messier “guarantee” game – and Game 7, and led to New York winning their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
For Stephane Matteau, it was one of the six goals he would score that post-season, notable if only because in his entire 13 season NHL career he only managed to pot 12 playoff goals. He also only managed two career overtime winners. One was the Game 3 winner against the Devils. The other was the series-deciding goal.
The campaign couldn’t have said it any better, because it made Matteau a household name.
1. April 18, 1987 – New York Islanders 3, Washington Capitals 2 (4OT)
In the pantheon of all-time NHL overtime contests, it’s hard not to rank this as one of the very greatest. The fact that it was a Game 7 is what puts it over the top. Nicknamed the ‘Easter Epic’ because it began on Saturday and ran into Easter Sunday, finally drawing to a close when Pat LaFontaine spun and fired a puck that found its way past Capitals goaltender Bob Mason at 1:58 a.m.
LaFontaine’s goal came after 68:47 of overtime and, to this day, was the goal that ended the longest Game 7 in NHL history.
What makes the goal, and the game, stand out that much more is what it allowed the Islanders to achieve. Coming into Game 5, the Islanders were down 3-1 in the series and it had been more than a decade since a team mounted a comeback from that kind of series deficit. New York proceded to rattle off a two-goal victory in Game 5, a one-goal win in Game 6 and capped it off with the marathon victory in Game 7.