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Here's a guarantee: Rangers didn't take Alex Ovechkin's Game 7 bait

Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, second from right,

Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, second from right, and right wing Jesper Fast (19) celebrate Kreider's goal as the Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin (8) skates past during the first period of Game 2 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, May 2, 2015, in New York. Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

We shall see tomorrow night whether Alex Ovechkin graduated from the Joe Namath / Mark Messier school of sports guarantees or the Patrick Ewing one.

But the Rangers needn't use his words after Game 6 for added motivation. Eye-rolling would be the better course of action.

That's because the Blueshirts' core group has proved its mettle many times over by now, and should know Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals are the ones feeling the heat entering Game 7.

The home team will have both recent and long-ago history on its side in a building where it is 6-0 all-time in Game 7s, and where it has won nine consecutive elimination games.

The visitors, meanwhile, have not reached a conference final since 1998, never have reached one in Ovechkin's career and have a coach, Barry Trotz, who never reached one in 15 years in Nashville before joining the Caps this season.

Back to Ovechkin. After scoring in Game 1, he aimed some trash talk at Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, saying, "All series, baby."

Well, not exactly. He scored again in Game 2 but has not done so since, his longest goal-less streak since December.

Then, after the Caps' 4-3 loss in Game 6 Sunday night, he said, "We're going to come back and win the series."

And this: "We're going to play our game and we're going to come back and we're going to play Montreal or Tampa."

Could be confidence. Could be wishful thinking.

On his day-after conference call with reporters Monday, coach Alain Vigneault refused to bite, after claiming not to have heard anything about Ovechkin's comments.

"I would expect players from both teams to want to come in and win," he said. "Our focus and our preparation is going to be on what we need to do for this Game 7."

Good strategy. Say what you want about Ovechkin's mouth, but he remains a dangerous force on skates, so why take his bait?

While he did not score a goal Sunday, he launched a total of 12 shots in Lundqvist's direction, six of which were on goal, and briefly knocked Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh out of the game with a devastating check into the boards.

Trotz defended Ovi's sentiments and the fact he shared them publicly, saying, "That's the mindset you need to have. If you don't have that, you might as well pack your bags."

Rangers fans will be all over Ovechkin Wednesday night, but they already had been in the series' first three games at the Garden, chanting an unkind word attached to his "Ovi" nickname.

For those without a rooting interest, which includes most of North America, the Game 7 showdown promises delicious drama all around.

The pressure is on the Capitals not to blow a 3-1 series lead. And it is on the Rangers not to squander their Presidents' Trophy-winning regular season as they attempt to come back from 3-1 down for a second season in a row after failing to do so in the first 17 tries in franchise history.

Add to that the fact the Rangers have played a difficult-to-believe 13 consecutive one-goal games in the playoffs and their near-death experience in Game 5 last Friday and, well, if you are a betting man or woman, I would advise you take the day off and just watch.

So would the Rangers' coach, who was asked what a betting man might say about Game 7 and offered this:

"A betting man would say both teams are going to try real hard. Both teams expect they can win, and it's going to be a great game."


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