SPORTS

Lightning not intimidated by Rangers' Game 7 success at Madison Square Garden

05/28/2015 10:39 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT
The legend of Madison Square Garden doesn't intimidate the Tampa Bay Lightning. Neither does the New York Rangers' recent streak of Game 7 victories there.

"It's still the same game, still the same measurements of any other rink," defenceman Victor Hedman said.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper won't pull out the measuring tape like Gene Hackman did in the movie "Hoosiers" to show that "The World's Most Famous Arena" has a 200-by-85-foot ice surface, just like every other NHL arena. He and his players are, however, distancing themselves from the Rangers' Game 7 success and hope to end that run Friday night with a trip to the Stanley Cup final at stake.

"We haven't been a part of that history, so it doesn't affect us," Cooper said on a conference call Wednesday. "I guess you look back and it's an impressive feat to see what they've done. But they haven't done it against our group and our team, and we've got a pretty young, confident group."

Tampa Bay's confidence stems from its 3-1 record at Madison Square Garden this season, including two victories in three tries so far in the Eastern Conference final. Hedman called it a "hostile environment" and a tough building to play in but boasted that the Lightning are comfortable playing there.

So are the Rangers, especially in high-pressure situations. They've played a Game 7 four times at MSG dating back to 2012, and won 2-1 each time.

They beat the Washington Capitals in overtime last round, the Philadelphia Flyers last year and the Ottawa Senators and Capitals in 2012.

"Game 7s are so exciting to play on that ice, and the fans seem to just absolutely light that building up," New York centre Derek Stepan told reporters in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday. "You play all year to get home ice advantage, and that's what we're able to do this year."

All-time, the Rangers have never lost a home Game 7.

"I guess that means they're due to lose one, right?" Lightning winger Alex Killorn quipped. "But, no, I mean, they're a team that, as we've seen when their backs are against the wall, they've played well.

"But we've also shown in the short history that our team has been together, we've been able to bounce back."

The Lightning are counting on a bounce-back effort after giving up five goals in the third period of a 7-3 loss in Game 6 on Tuesday night with a chance to close out the Rangers. They've only lost back-to-back games once in these playoffs, and that was when they had a 3-0 lead on the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.

Tampa Bay can draw on the experience of winning Game 7 in the first round against Detroit. This young team, which had only last year's sweep at the hands of the Canadiens to recall, went into Joe Louis Arena to stave off elimination and then rode goaltender Ben Bishop to victory at home.

"I think it was useful for this group," said Hedman, who along with captain Steven Stamkos is back from the 2011 team that reached Game 7 of the East final. "It was the first Game 7 for a lot of guys in the NHL. ... Just the way we played in those two games I think showed a lot about how we need to play to be successful."

As Presidents' Trophy winners and Cup finalists last year, the Rangers have plenty of pressure on them again in Game 7. Winger Rick Nash, who has three goals and four assists in the past three games, said the job is to "turn that pressure into a challenge."

One thing that helps in a big way is having elite goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who's 6-1 with a 0.97 goals-against average and .966 save percentage in Game 7 situations in his NHL career. Lundqvist has a .900 save percentage in this series and the Lightning are hoping to make him look human once again.

"We know we're going to get the best out of Lundqvist, like he always does in Game 7s," Killorn said. "But we think if we play the way we did in Game 5, I think we'll put ourselves in a good situation."

---

Follow @SWhyno on Twitter

MORE:cpSports