Not So Fast; Caps Send Series to Game 6

by | May 7, 2017

With a three-goal third period, including two in 27 seconds, the Washington Capitals staved off elimination Saturday at Verizon Center and forced a Game 6 Monday in Pittsburgh.

Things started well for the Penguins even before Game 5 as captain Sidney Crosby and winger Conor Sheary, both of whom sustained concussions in Game 3, passed their concussion baseline testing and were cleared to return.

And the good news just kept coming for Pittsburgh. At 10:24 into the first period, forward Carl Hagelin found open space in front of the net and fired it past goaltender Braden Holtby to open the scoring. The Penguins had been 6-0 in this year’s playoffs when scoring the first goal.

Then the Caps got some momentum with a patient, late-period goal from Andre Burakovsky at 19:30, his first of the playoffs.

“We obviously gave them life,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “We got the first goal; we thought we had pretty good control of the game at that point. We talked about being strong at the lines; that’s an important part of winning at this time of year, and I thought that goal was avoidable.”

But the Penguins quickly retook the lead with a power-play goal at 4:20 of the second. Some quick, tic-tac-toe passing made its way to Phil Kessel on Holtby’s short side, and Kessel’s wrister found its way past the goaltender’s blocker.

That 2-1 lead held until early in a third period that would be all Washington.

It started with Nicklas Backstrom tying the contest at 2:49, then came the backbreakers – Evgeny Kuznetsov at 7:20, followed quickly by captain Alex Ovechkin at 7:49, to make it 4-2.

“We had the momentum going into the third, then they got that [Backstrom] goal and it kind of turned,” said forward Nick Bonino. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking things as they happen, staying on an even keel and coming back when it’s 2-2.”

“They just got some momentum,” Crosby said. “We had our chances to build on that lead and we didn’t. Then they tie it up and get some life off of that, gain some momentum there for a short span and end up putting another two in.”

The Penguins had plenty of time to counter after that, but couldn’t beat Holtby, whose third period might have been his strongest of the series.

“I think, a lot of the third period, we had some pushback,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We had some opportunities; we had some real high-quality chances. We didn’t convert.”

“That’s why he’s up for the Vezina [Trophy]; he’s one of the best in the league,” Bonino said. “You expect good goaltending in the playoffs, and they got it tonight.”

On the other side, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was hard on himself after the game.

“They kept coming at us and put the puck on net. Some I’d like to have back; that’s for sure,” Fleury said. “Just today in general was probably my worst one all playoffs, I think. I just want to forget about it and move on.”

Sullivan wasn’t so quick to put blame on his goalie – perhaps realizing that Fleury has allowed only 13 goals on 174 shots in this series, outright stealing a game or two for his team, compared to 16 on 115 shots for the Capitals’ netminders.

“He was solid,” Sullivan said. “He’s made save after save for us. The goals they scored were good goals. I think we could do a better job in front of him.”

That, they could.

For the fifth time in as many games, the Penguins were outshot (32-22), outchanced (66 attempted shots to 52) and outpossessed by the Presidents Trophy winners. That’s probably not the best formula for continued success.

“I would say just a little bit more zone time,” Crosby said on what the Penguins can improve. “If we can hold onto the puck in their end a little bit more, we should get more shots. I think we’ll generate a little bit more from that.”

Having more zone time would go a long way toward helping the Penguins repeat last year’s outcome, where they lost Game 5 in Washington but came home to eliminate the Capitals in six.

“We hope it goes like that, but nothing’s for granted,” Bonino said. “You never expect to sweep a team or win in five; you know it’s usually going six or seven with a good team, with the best team in the league. We have to have a mindset of coming home and winning.”

“They’re a good team,” said Fleury. “They finished first in the league and there’s a reason for it. We knew the last one’s always the hardest to get. It’s disappointing, but we’ve got to move on and redeem ourselves.”

Anaheim Ducks Take the Long View

Anaheim Ducks Take the Long View

The Anaheim Ducks will be featured 14 times on US national TV this upcoming season. Several other teams are tied at that number, and only Minnesota and the Rangers have more national games, at 15. The Ducks didn’t make the playoffs last year, and by most accounts, won’t do so again this season. So why all the attention?

read more
LA Kings’ Style Not Flashy

LA Kings’ Style Not Flashy

The LA Kings knew they were going to make the playoffs last season, even though most other people thought they would not. They proved naysayers wrong, and took on Edmonton in round one. They bowed out, but not before seven games had been contested.

read more
NHL Future Power Rankings: Predicting best, worst teams for the next three seasons

Are the Avs and Lightning set up for long-term success? Which teams could shoot up the standings soon? How do teams with young stars fit in? [...]

Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi leading the next wave for the Wild

With several Minnesota players entering their prime, the two young skaters are part of the group that can drive the club to new heights. [...]

Canucks' Boeser (hand) to miss 3 to 4 weeks

Canucks winger Brock Boeser underwent hand surgery after injuring himself Saturday during training camp. [...]

Canada drops vax mandate for athletes, visitors

The Canadian government confirmed Monday it will no longer require COVID-19 vaccines or the use of masks for visiting athletes and other noncitizens as part of relaxed travel measures that… [...]

Golden Knights say center Patrick out for season

Vegas Golden Knights center Nolan Patrick will miss the 2022-23 season, the team announced on Thursday. [...]

Flyers assume defenseman Ellis to miss season

The Flyers expect that defenseman Ryan Ellis will miss the season with a back injury. [...]

Blackhawks' Kane: Trade rumors are just rumors

Patrick Kane thinks rumors of him being traded by the rebuilding Blackhawks are just rumors. [...]

Rinne rejoins Preds as special alumni adviser

The Predators have brought back Pekka Rinne in a new role as a special alumni advisor. [...]

Czech govt. to NHL: Don't bring Russian players

The Predators and Sharks, who are set to play in the Czech capital of Prague next month, have been told their Russian players are not welcome in the country. [...]

Stanley Cup finalists, first coach fired, Kane trade destination: Bold predictions for all 32 NHL teams

With opening night approaching on Oct. 11, we take big swings on what will transpire in the 2022-23 season. [...]

Ever wonder what it would be like if your everyday car was a ZAMBONI?!?!?

Wonder no longer…

Check out The Zambonis' latest hit, "Slow Whip"!