2012 NHL Playoffs: Rangers Vs. Capitals - It All Comes Down To This

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: The New York Rangers celebrate after Marian Gaborik #10 scored a goal against the Washington Capitals in the third period of Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

And for the second time this season the New York Rangers will be forced to win a Game 7 if they want to stay alive in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the first round, the Rangers earned a 2-1 victory to move onto the second round.

And it's that second round opponent, the Washington Capitals, who have forced yet another Game 7 for the Rangers. The same exact thing they did to the Boston Bruins in the first round. We all know how that ended.

The Rangers were able to use the home ice advantage -- and more importantly the last change that comes with home ice -- to find a way past the Ottawa Senators. John Tortorella is hoping to add those ingredients and cook a similar meal tonight.

Join me after the jump for more.

From the outside looking in, it didn't seem like the Rangers would need a Game 7 to get past the Capitals. After a tough-to-swallow Game 3 triple-overtime loss it seemed like the Rangers were well on their way to taking a 3-1 series lead. The Capitals, on the other hand, had other ideas. And thanks to some seriously questionable officiating in the final seven minutes of the third period in Game 4, the Capitals were able to score a late power play goal and tie the series at two.

The Rangers came out flying in Game 5, but still needed a miracle goal with 6.6 seconds left from Brad Richards to send the overtime. From there, Marc Staal took a clean face off win from John Mitchell to the middle of the point and rifled a shot past Braden Holtby to give the Rangers a (seemingly) commanding 3-2 series lead.

But the momentum wouldn't wouldn't be sustained their either, and the Capitals would give their best performance of this series (while the Rangers gave their worst) to tie things at three and force a Game 7 back at Madison Square Garden.

Which brings us to right here and now. Yet another "biggest game of the season" scenario. Yet another couple of hours of gut-wrenching waiting before the game even begins.

Players like Marian Gaborik, Richards, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and more will be expected to step up for the Rangers. They all have before, although the Rangers have only gotten truly consistent efforts from a few players this postseason. Others have gone hot and cold as the games went on.

The Rangers are going to want a consistent effort from all of them tonight.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: You don't win the Stanley Cup, you earn it. The Rangers took a big step in earning the Cup by winning Game 7 in the first round. They took more steps in Games 3 and 5 in this round. Now they need one more.

But if they want to move on, they'll have to earn it.

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