Tampa Bay Lightning vs. NY Rangers Game 7 Preview & Prediction

Nothing was decided in the first six games of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals, so it all comes to Friday's winner-takes-all Game 7 showdown between the Tampa Bay Lightning and NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Will the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in over a decade? Or can the Rangers make magic again and return to the big stage for the second-straight year? Here's our sneak preview of tonight's festivities in the Big Apple.

Tampa Bay Key Player: C Steven Stamkos

Stamkos has long since been on the fringes of the "best NHL player" conversation, and it initially seemed like his four-straight goals in Games 2 thru 5 were going to be his springboard to the ultimate proving ground, the Stanley Cup Finals. However, after a dismal Game 6 where he posted a -2 plus/minus, now is the time for Stamkos to match his talent with a performance that will be remembered forever in franchise lore.

New York Key Player: G Henrik Lundqvist 

We were thinking about giving Rick Nash the nod here, but who're we kidding? The Rangers go as Lundqvist goes. With the team's offense stuck in a perpetual cycle of on-again, off-again, it's Henrik's timely heroics in front of the cage which have propelled this team from playoff also-ran to championship contender. If he stands on his head one more time in Game 7, Broadway will likely have plenty to celebrate tonight.

What To Watch:

Keep your eye on the effort plays early on. The Rangers outhustled the Lightning to nearly every loose puck in their Game 6 road victory, but it was Tampa who sacrificed themselves for over 20 shot blocks in a crowd-killing Game 5 victory at MSG. Whoever does the little things the best and the earliest will be in the driver's seat.

Prediction: Rangers win 3-2 (OT)

The Western Conference Finals is getting its just desserts as one of the greatest conference finals in league history, but this topsy-turvy series has been no slouch in the drama department either. Home-ice advantage and a "been there before" attitude gives the Rangers the nod, albeit in nail-biting overtime fashion.

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