5 things to watch in Game 7 of NHL Eastern Conference Final

Gerard Gallant says he doesn’t care which team the Golden Knights will face when the Stanley Cup Final begins next week.

“They’re both excellent hockey teams,” Gallant said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a battle. Seven-game series, and again, I hope it goes three periods of overtime (Wednesday) night, and whoever comes out of it is a little bit tired.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

The Knights await the winner in the Stanley Cup Final, with Game 1 set for Monday.

“Both of those teams are quick and fast and got some top-end talent,” Gallant added.

Here is what to watch for when the Lightning and Capitals take the ice:

1. From Russia with love.

Both teams are loaded with star players who hail from the world’s largest country, but there are two to keep an eye on.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has six points in the series against Tampa Bay but has struggled during 5-on-5 play. The Lightning have matched their fourth line against Ovechkin as often as possible, and that unit produced two goals with him on the ice in Tampa Bay’s Game 5 victory.

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov owns a minus-5 rating in the conference final and has two goals in his past 11 games after scoring a team-high 39 during the regular season.

2. Hot Holtby.

Washington’s Braden Holtby, who was demoted at the start of the playoffs, is coming off a 24-save effort in his team’s 3-0 victory in Game 6. It was his first shutout of the season.

But the 28-year-old veteran has not fared well in Game 7s during his career, posting a 2-4 record despite a solid .923 save percentage. Holtby will need to be on Wednesday or Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy could steal the series for the Lightning.

3. Yanni or Laurel?

Lightning winger Yanni Gourde had a career year with 25 goals and 64 points during the regular season. But the 26-year-old has yet to score a goal in the conference final and has two in 16 playoff games.

In the Lightning’s three victories, the second line, which includes Gourde, combined for two goals (both by Brayden Point) and five assists; they have one goal and two assists in the three losses.

4. Power up.

Tampa Bay had the No. 3 power play in the league during the regular season at 23.9 percent, and they’ve scorched the Capitals with the man advantage throughout the series.

The Lightning were clicking at a ridiculous 40 percent (6-for-15) with the man advantage in the first five games of the series before going 0-for-2 against the Capitals in Game 6.

The referees usually swallow the whistle in a Game 7, but Washington needs to stay out of the penalty box regardless.

5. Home-ice advantage?

The road teams won the first four games of this series, and Washington is 7-2 on the road during this postseason.

The Capitals closed out the opening-round series at Columbus and defeated the Penguins in Pittsburgh during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Since 2005-06, Washington has played three Game 7s on the road and is 1-2, losing to the New York Rangers in 2012 and 2015, and defeating Boston in 2012. If you’re into trends, all three of those games ended with the score 2-1.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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