NHL

Caps know little things count in Game 7

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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ARLINGTON, Va.

Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich — the Washington Capitals players on the front of the team's media guide — have been together long enough to see three postseasons end in Game 7s.

Rangers vs. Capitals

RANGERS vs. CAPITALS

Rangers down Caps in Game 7

Washington's captain said the team's Game 7 history — which does include a first-round victory over the defending Stanley Cup champ Boston Bruins last month — isn't something the team dwells on as it prepares for Saturday's decisive game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"What's the point of thinking about it?" Ovechkin told reporters Friday at the team's practice facility. "We just have to win. Sometimes memories are good. Sometimes memories are bad. You just have to take what you have and go out and there and show what you have. (That means) blocking shots and making hits."

And getting the first marker. The team that has scored first has won each of the first six games.

"I don't think it's the be all, end all for us," veteran Caps winger Mike Knuble said. "Getting that first goal is always big, especially in a Game 7. It takes a load off. Can you go into the game thinking it's over if you don't score the first goal? You sure can't, but it does help things."

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist — and his Caps counterpart Braden Holtbly, whose fiancée gave birth to a boy on Thursday — will certainly have a say on who wins or loses, but Game 7s aren't always decided by top-line forwards.

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The Caps advanced in 2009 after aged veteran forward Sergei Fedorov scored the decisive goal against the Rangers. The first-round victory on April 25 — in overtime no less — was shoveled in by Joel Ward, who certainly fits the definition of a role player. Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi scored his only goal of the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators in Game 7, the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at MSG.

"In a lot of Game 7s, you have a lot of guys who you don't expect to score make the difference in the game," Caps forward Keith Aucoin said. "When you get the opportunity to score, you have to bear down and get the job done."

And the game-winners aren't typically the prettiest goals, but that would certainly fit this tight series. Each of the first six games were decided by a goal, and the series has been either tied or a one-goal game for 90 percent of the time.

Studying game video is almost pointless since the teams know each other's tendencies so well at this point, veteran Knuble said.

"We know what's going to be thrown at us," Knuble said. "We know what's going to happen on the ice. You tend to look more internally. You tend to look at yourself (on video) to pick out the little things you're doing on the ice. It's going to come down to those little things. You just try to have all your bases covered."

The Caps have already played three games in this series at MSG, although the Rangers fans — which have not seen their team advance to the Eastern Conference finals (where the New Jersey Devils await) since 1997 — could take it up a notch.

Lundqvist, who has been solid, but not spectacular in the series, said he expects the Rangers to do likewise.

"There's more on the line," he said. "You're more excited, more nervous. It's important that you try to control these emotions and approach it the right way."

Tagged: Rangers, Capitals, Mike Knuble, Joel Ward

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