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NHL Game 7 memories: Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens, Glenn Anderson

Few players know what an NHL Game 7 is like better than Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Glenn Anderson.

Over the telephone Ken Daneyko’s voice brightens, like he’s just been reminded of an old flame. “How could I forget, my man?” he says. “My last Game 7 was the last game of my career. What a way to go out.”

Daneyko (photo above) was 39 years old during the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, a workmanlike defenseman who had been drafted by the New Jersey Devils during the Reagan Administration. He'd never played for any other NHL team. For a time he had been the Devils' blue-line bedrock, particularly during championship runs in 1995 and 2000. But as his tenure wound down, Daneyko found himself scratched for most of the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa, and then was shelved in Games 1-6 against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. “As frustrated as I was, I just want us to win now,” Daneyko says today. “I’ve played a lot of hockey, I contributed a lot. It didn’t matter now.”

And then, after a cross-country flight back to Newark following a Game 6 loss, coach Pat Burns approached Daneyko at breakfast and told him that he’d be returning with the season on the line. “I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” Daneyko says. “Now I’m calling friends and saying, You’re not going to f---ing believe it. I’m in tomorrow night, and I don’t think it’s the right decision.”

Why was Daneyko so less-than-positive? “I haven’t played in two weeks, I didn’t want to lose this thing for us,” he says. “Before the game, I was pumped to be in. I said I’m going to be fine. The night before I wasn’t. I was like a rookie again going, 'This is nuts.'”

He had little impact in the actual game, skating 19 shifts for 11:23 and appearing on the ice for one Devils goal. But he was able to hoist the Cup, and then retire from hockey on the note all kids dream about in their driveways—victorious in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“Every cliché that’s out there comes out for that particular moment in time. And it’s fun,” says Hall of Fame forward Glenn Anderson.

NHL playoffs: keys to Lightning vs. Penguins Game 7

​So why, with Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh looming on Thursday night, are Anderson and Daneyko offering their recollections? According to the NHL, via the Elias Sports Bureau, both have logged a dozen career Game 7 appearances, tied with StephaneYelle for third all-time. Former goalie/current Avalanche GM Patrick Roy and ex-defenseman/NHL Network analyst Scott Stevens, both Hall of Famers, share top honors with 13 apiece. (Stevens, it should be noted, played a vital role in getting Daneyko to 12: Before Game 7 against Anaheim, Burns consulted Stevens, who recommended that Daneyko draw back into the lineup.)

A more comprehensive list of Game 7 gurus was unavailable, but a few hastily-made calls—after all, the Penguins’ 5–2 win over Tampa Bay in Game 6 happened on Tuesday—here are what the most seasoned skaters remember about their winner-take-all moments.

GALLERY: NHL's Great Game 7s





Few can claim such dramatic bookends to their Game 7 experiences as Stevens, who opened with the “Easter Epic” as a 23-year-old in 1987 and ended by celebrating beside Daneyko in 2003. Of the former contest, in which Stevens’ Capitals fell to the Islanders in the fourth overtime, he foremost remembers a second-hand story heard after the marathon ended. “The Islanders, they wanted oxygen,” he says. “Our trainer gave them the oxygen with the mask, and their players are using that in between overtimes.” He also remembers spending the entire next day resting in bed.

But the build-up to a Game 7, Stevens says, can be equally draining. “Being a little nervous isn’t a bad thing. I think that brings out the best in you at times. But discipline’s always huge in the playoffs.” Indeed, with so little room for error, penalty rates tend to drop during winner-take-all scenarios. Since the 2011 playoffs, 32 series have reached a seventh game. In more than half of those (17), there were reductions of at least eight penalty minutes between the avearge in Games 1-6 and Game 7. The 2011 Eastern Conference first-round slugfest between Philadelphia and Buffalo, which accumulated 54 penalty minutes in Game 7, is more an anomaly than the détente brokered between Boston and Tampa Bay later that spring; with a Cup Final berth at stake, exactly zero skaters entered the box.