The first Game 7 of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs will take place tonight in Boston, as the defending champion Bruins host the seventh- seeded Washington Capitals at TD Garden for the decisive battle of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The Bruins won three Game 7s last spring and they earned their first Stanley Cup title since 1972 after taking a decisive seventh game in Vancouver on June 15. Boston also was pushed to the limit in the first round in 2011, but the B's beat Montreal in overtime of Game 7 to take that series.
Washington had a chance to eliminate the second-seeded Bruins this past Sunday in D.C., but Boston kept its title defense alive by recording a 4-3 overtime victory. Every game in this series so far has been decided by just one goal, marking the first time in NHL history that six straight playoff games have ended in one-goal margins.
Tyler Seguin lit the lamp just 3:17 into overtime for the Bruins on Sunday. The No.2 overall pick of the 2010 draft also had an assist for Boston, which bounced back from a 4-3 regulation loss on Saturday in Beantown.
Washington centerman Nicklas Backstrom, who had two assists in the game, committed a crucial turnover in overtime to set up Seguin's game-winner. Boston forward David Krejci stole the puck near center ice before passing off to Milan Lucic, who was positioned at the blue line. Seguin collected Lucic's pass and got Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby out of position before scoring the game-winner.
"I saw the goalie challenging, so I just tried to make a quick move and got lucky it went in," Seguin said.
Krejci, Rich Peverley and Andrew Ference all had a goal and an assist to help Boston stave off elimination.
Tim Thomas, last year's Conn Smythe winner, made 36 saves for the Bruins, who are in danger of being eliminated in the first round for the first time since losing to Montreal in the 2008 conference quarterfinals.
"I pride myself on doing the best I can every night and doing the best I can to help the team," Thomas said. "Our backs are against the wall so I was trying to help them out. Hopefully I did, but they [the rest of the team] stepped up and helped us out too - the whole team did."
Despite the win, Boston is still one setback away from becoming the second straight Stanley Cup winner to be eliminated in the first round the following season. Chicago was ousted by Vancouver in last year's opening round after winning it all in 2010.
Mike Green, Jason Chimera and Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp on Sunday for the Capitals. Holtby stopped 27-of-31 shots for Washington and has allowed seven goals over the last two games after surrendering that same amount over the first four tilts in this series.
"Any experiences you get in the playoffs, it just adds to you," Capitals head coach Dale Hunter said. "You know what to expect. Game 7s are exciting games because it's do or die for both teams and they're awesome to play in."
The Capitals are 1-3 in Game 7s over the past four seasons and all four of those contests were at home. Washington has won only two Game 7s in franchise history and its last victory in a decisive game came against the New York Rangers in the 2009 conference quarterfinals. Hunter delivered the other Game 7 winner for Washington, scoring in overtime to beat Philadelphia in the 1988 division semifinals.
Boston was 24-14-3 as the home club during the regular season, but has lost two straight as the host since taking Game 1 of this series. Washington had a poor 16-21-4 road record this season.