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HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON - -There have been precious few events in Washington sports like the one that will take place tonight at Verizon Center, and the heroes in years past have names such as Dale Hunter, a Washington Capitals great, because he once scored an overtime winner to keep a season alive.

Painfully, the villains include guys like Pat LaFontaine, the New York Islander who unforgettably turned an April morning miserable for Washington fans, because he scored in the fourth overtime, ending a never-ending game, not to mention the Capitals' season.

Only 10 times, in any sport, has Washington hosted a Game 7, a history that dates to the 1924 World Series, when Walter Johnson came out of the Senators' bullpen to beat the New York Giants at old Griffith Stadium.

Bobby Dandridge had his moment, leading the Bullets - remember them? - over the San Antonio Spurs by a bucket out in Landover, now 20 years past. Just two weeks ago, Sergei Fedorov took his turn, burying the New York Rangers in the first round of these Stanley Cup NHL playoffs because he scored late in the third period of a tie game, when a goal the other way would have sent the Capitals home for a long, painful summer.

So tonight, into the specter of Washington Game 7s, enter Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the stars of the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively. As good as this Eastern Conference semifinal series has been - and, impossibly, "It's lived up to the hype," Washington forward Brooks Laich said - it is only tonight when it can cement itself as one of the best and most riveting events in Washington sports history.

"It's what's going to make these guys great," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's going to make them remembered. No one's going to remember who lost Game 7. But they've got the ability to - and I told them yesterday - to create history again."

On the ice

Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2: : Mark Recchi and visiting Boston moved closer to giving the Carolina Hurricanes a different kind of knockout punch. Recchi had a goal and an assist, and the Bruins beat Carolina to even the Eastern Conference semifinals and force a decisive Game 7. Marc Savard scored before leaving in the third period with an apparent leg injury. There was no retaliation for what the Bruins considered a sucker punch thrown by Carolina's Scott Walker near the end of Game 5.

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