Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is closer than ever to playing for the Stanley Cup, and he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’ve never been in this position before,” he said Tuesday, looking ahead to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The winner Wednesday night at Tampa, Fla., earns a berth in the Stanley Cup Final opposite the Vegas Golden Knights, who will try for hockey’s biggest prize in their inaugural season.
Ovechkin and the Capitals are hoping to shed a label as playoff underachievers, a franchise that dazzles during the regular season only to disappoint at the most important time of the year.
“I’m excited. We’re all excited. We all want to be in this position and move forward,” said Ovechkin, who is playing in the conference final for the first time during his prolific 13-year career.
“[Wednesday night] is probably biggest game in my life, this team, organization probably. We still haven’t reached our goal. Tomorrow is going to be a huge step forward.”
Tampa Bay is playing Game 7 in the conference final for the third time in four years.
“Experience is always a good thing, but it’s nothing I’m going to sit and lean on,” said Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman, who is 7-1 in Game 7s during his career. “It’s about doing your job at the highest level you possibly can.”
Lamoriello to Islanders
The New York Islanders hired Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations Tuesday, saying the 75-year-old longtime executive will have “full authority over all hockey matters with the organization.”
The move throws into uncertainty the future of current president and general manager Garth Snow and potentially coach Doug Weight and could give the team a fresh chance to re-sign face of the franchise John Tavares before he can become a free agent.
Lamoriello comes to a team that has missed the playoffs eight of the last 12 seasons with Snow as GM. Recalling the team’s glory days from a generation ago, Lamoriello said he is “excited to join such a storied franchise.”
After working a quarter-century in the NHL, Paul Fenton finally has the opportunity to run a team. The 58-year-old Fenton is the new general manager of the Minnesota Wild, who have reached the postseason six straight times but have won only two series during that run. ... Goaltender Antti Niemi agreed to a one-year, $950,000 contract with the Montreal Canadiens. Niemi was bought out by the Dallas Stars last summer, signed with Pittsburgh, was claimed on waivers by Florida and then claimed again by Montreal.