Caps end Penguins' hex, win series in OT

Lawrence Cooper
May 9, 2018

BC-HKN-Capitals-Penguins, 3rd Ld-Writethru, 906Caps drop Penguins in OT to advance to conference finalsAP Photo PAGP114, PAGP110, PAGP112, PAGP115, PAGP108, PAGP107, PAGP105, PAGP104, PAGP102, PAGP101Eds: Capitals 2, Penguins 1.

The Capitals finally got over the hump Monday night, as Evgeny Kuznetsov buried an overtime victor in Game 6 of Washington's second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Penguins to lift his team to its first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 1998.

The Capitals celebrate after their 2-1 overtime win over the Penguins put them into the Eastern Conference finals. "I don't think any of us have been looking forward because nothing had been handed to us". No one knew how well he was going to play considering he's struggled against the Penguins, but he was fantastic in all six of these games. Overall, he's.924 since coming in during the Columbus Blue Jackets in that series.

The Penguins responded by evening the series at 2 with a 3-1 victory in Game Four. They capitalized on the chances they got.

Game 6 feels like a decent microcosm of the series as a whole.

Added Brooks Orpik, a rugged defenseman who has seen the rivalry from both sides: "You see what they've done". The Game Six win marked the first time Ovechkin had beaten Crosby in the postseason. In the end, Washington got better goaltending than Pittsburgh and that made a huge difference.

Whoever is on the ice will be forced to shoulder the weight of playoff failures, one Trotz is confident his team is finally ready to shrug off for good. Their power play wasn't as good as it was against Columbus (9/27) but it went 4/15 which is still getting the job done. Walker's assist was the first ever in the playoffs by an Australian when he set up Chiasson's score.

Maybe because - for now anyway - Washington's long-held role as playoff fodder for the Penguins is over. Pittsburgh's power play wasn't as sharp as it usually is and that can happen in a playoff series. They were able to get their sticks into shooting lanes and block a lot of shots. They also opened it with a couple of losses at home. Braden Holtby, benched at the start of the playoffs, stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced and received a dash of luck when Pittsburgh's Tom Kuhnhackl hit the far post early in the extra period.

Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara

Washington and Pittsburgh each traded blows during even-strength despite the Penguins being carried by their top line for nearly every game. To be fair, the Penguins looked remarkably flat at times with their season on the line.

Most of these minutes came on even-strength and that just won't cut it for Pittsburgh.

Given that history, it was fitting Ovechkin retrieved a puck turned over by Crosby to spring Kuznetsov for the goal that busted a lifetime of ghosts, the shot that sent the Penguins to summer vacation. Nathan Walker got the primary assist in his first National Hockey League playoff game on a quick pass from behind the goal. He did all of that while going up against the Penguins top pair in Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin.

Here are a few of the other euphoric moments from Game 6 Capitals fans won't soon forget. This time, a Game 7 wasn't even necessary.

Rangers forward Mike Gartner, who spent 10 years with the Capitals, understood what the win meant to Washington and its fans better than most. That was a major reason for their elimination.

The Washington Capitals will have to try and knock the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the playoffs without center Nicklas Backstrom. They played with fire and got burned and as such the Caps are moving on to the finals.

Washington was able to take advantage of the Penguins sloppy defense in their own zone and giving up odd-man rushes.

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We are set to see cooler temperatures on Tuesday, with the weather picture becoming more mixed as the month progresses. Royal bride Meghan may be hoping the rain will stay away for her big day at Windsor Castle.

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