(SportsNetwork.com) - The first Game 7 of the 2015 playoffs is on tap for Monday when the New York Islanders visit the Washington Capitals for the decisive battle of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
The Islanders staved off elimination in Game 6, posting a 3-1 victory on Saturday in what may have been their final game at Nassau Coliseum, which has been the franchise's home since its inception in 1972. New York, of course, is moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, but could extend its time on Long Island if it can win tonight in D.C. and reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Washington, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back on home ice and win its first playoff series since three years ago when it beat Boston in seven games. The Capitals have gone the distance in four straight playoff series and have come out on the losing end in the last two. They have a 3-9 all-time record in Game 7s and a 2-7 mark at home.
The Caps beat the Bruins on the road in 2012, as Joel Ward tallied an overtime winner to deliver a 2-1 victory for Washington in the franchise's last Game 7 victory.
New York is 3-4 all-time in Game 7s and 3-3 on the road. The club picked up its last series win by taking a decisive seventh game in Pittsburgh during the second round of the 1993 playoffs.
The winner of tonight's contest will move on to face the New York Rangers in the next round. The Rangers, who own home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, beat Pittsburgh in five games to advance to the conference semifinals.
The Caps and Isles were tied at 1-1 heading into the third period of Game 6, but Nikolay Kulemin delivered the game-winner midway through the final stanza. His first goal of the series came directly after captain John Tavares took one for the team.
Tavares charged down the middle and put a shot on net that Washington goaltender Braden Holtby knocked away. Tavares then chased after the puck in the left corner and, while trying to dig it out, was crushed by Alex Ovechkin. However, the puck wound up going to the mid-left boards where Nick Leddy whipped it to the slot and Kulemin tucked it home for a 2-1 lead with 9:27 to play.
"Everybody worked as a team today," said Kulemin. "It wasn't one guy or two guys, it was everybody."
Cal Clutterbuck recorded an empty-net goal in the final minute. Clutterbuck also was given a 10-minute misconduct for his part in a scuffle after the final horn sound. A total of 26 penalty minutes were issued for the game- ending fracas.
Tavares ended with a goal and an assist while Jaroslav Halak turned aside 38 shots for the Isles.
"I wanted to make sure we gave ourselves a chance to get back to this building," said Tavares, who has two goals and four assists in this series
John Carlson had the only goal of the game for the Capitals and Holtby stopped 35 shots in the loss.
"We need to forget about this one and re-energize and re-focus," said Carlson. "All our energy needs to go to Game 7 and that's it."
New York won Game 6 despite dealing with a rash of injuries affecting its blue line. Travis Hamonic has missed the entire series with a lower-body injury, Lubomir Visnovsky has been out since suffering a concussion in Game 4 and Calvin de Haan missed Saturday's tilt after leaving the previous contest with an upper-body injury. Young defensemen Matt Donovan, Scott Mayfield and Griffin Reinhart have helped fill in for the injured players in recent games.
For the Caps, centerman Eric Fehr will likely miss a fourth straight game tonight after he was injured on a check by Kyle Okposo in the first period of Game 3.
Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green have each played seven Game 7s for Washington. Ovechkin has two goals and two assists over those contests, while Brooks Laich also has two goals and two helpers in six Game 7 appearances.
Johnny Boychuk leads the Islanders with seven Game 7 appearances -- all of which came with the Bruins. The defenseman has a goal and two assists in this situation.
Halak is 2-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and .963 save percentage in Game 7s. Holtby is 1-2 with a 2.64 GAA and .911 save percentage in his three Game 7 starts.