Game 6: Washington Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins
The Caps got Brooks Orpik back from suspension and plugged him back into the lineup on his familiar pair with John Carlson.
Ironically, the Pens got Olli Maatta back from the injury Orpik caused, and Maatta took Justin Schultz's lineup spot.
Phil Kessel gets the Pens on the board when he used Karl Alzner as a screen and rocketed a quick hard shot by Braden Holtby. Holtby got confounded by the quick release and maybe that Kessel put the shot through Alzner's skates but still had the angle to beat Holtby to his short-side. Either way, one he probably wants back.
We're Phillin' good. pic.twitter.com/OkzgF0hxcw— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 11, 2016
Early in the second, the Pens have the Caps on the ropes. If this was a boxing match it would be ready for the knockout punch. Terrific shift by Evgeni Malkin who finds Carl Hagelin point-blank, but a great leg save by Holtby to keep the score 1-0.
#HOLTBEAST pic.twitter.com/yv0z5vSQiG— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) May 11, 2016
Later Orpik takes a retaliation hack at Patric Hornqvist knocking his mouth-piece out and drawing blood for a 4 minute penalty. It would be a critical mistake, for the Pens would score 2 quick power play goals.
First it was Kessel to score again and make it 2-0, on a great move right in front. Holtby tried to stay with him, but just couldn't. (Kessel also smashed the post in the sequence immediately before this, he was feeling it
Kessel’s 7 power-play points are tied for 1st in the NHL this postseason. Here's his second goal of the night. pic.twitter.com/s8JjCdsadM— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 11, 2016
33 seconds later, with the 2nd PP unit on, it was Carl Hagelin 's turn, tipping a Maatta point-shot to make it 3-0 and give Orpik the ultimate punishment for his penalty.
Swagelin on the power play. Want more? Check out our Game in GIFs: https://t.co/HiJUIvUJcG pic.twitter.com/nfppttuUBb— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 11, 2016
The Caps get some life and hope before the end of the second period, Nicklas Backstrom feeds T.J. Oshie on a really nice one-time hard shot past Matt Murray to make it 3-1.
Oshie scores in the 2nd #CapsPens 1-3 with 30 secs to go in the 2nd pic.twitter.com/JrluBYvatF— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) May 11, 2016
First shift, Andre Burakovsky gets a breakaway. If he scores, it's could be a totally different game. Matt Murray is all over it though.
Murray save on Burakovsky pic.twitter.com/N8KVfu2jCt— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 11, 2016
The Caps though make it 3-2 7:23 in when Justin Williams collects the puck, pops out and expands his shooting lane and goes top-shelf for a huge goal.
Williams scores! #CapsPens 2-3 in the 3rd pic.twitter.com/AG0LsVOrD1— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) May 11, 2016
Then, vomit vomit vomit the Penguins take 3 count 'em, and excuse my language fuckin 3 delay of game penalties for shooting pucks over the glass in just a 2:02 timeline. That gives the Caps unlimited 5v3's and they make it pay off with a nice interchange by Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to clear plenty of space for Carlson to step into a big slapper for the game-tying goal.
Carlson TIES IT! #CapsPens tied at 3 with 5:45 left in the 3rd pic.twitter.com/1zNpGxau0K— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) May 11, 2016
This means overtime
Trevor Daley gets 3 good cracks at shots, but Holtby is there. Then he's not and Patric Hornqvist has a wide open net. He elevates the puck but somehow Jay Beagle in desperation gets his stick exactly where it needs to be. Looked like a bad omen for things to come.
That Beagle stick save slo-mo and above the net angle. Oh. my. god. pic.twitter.com/Os0rJKbF1E— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) May 11, 2016
But, the Pens would keep pushing. The Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Kessel line would go to work, Holtby would make a boss save on Hagelin but Bonino was all alone in front and able to poke in the game-winning and series-clinching goal.
Bonino series winner pic.twitter.com/CCcerHg9Uw— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 11, 2016
- One of the best starts energy-wise for the Pens this series, and not just because of the early Kessel goal. Lots of hits, shots, good skating by Pittsburgh. They definitely started strong under the roar of the home crowd, following by a big push after the Kessel goal.
- Big 2-on-1 in the first with Marcus Johansson breaking in and taking a shot. Murray had the answer, coolly in position to make a save with the crest of his jersey.
- A couple of big developments injury-wise in the first. Daniel Winnik got hit with a puck in the neck area and had to leave the bench and then at some point Karl Alzner (who's skipped many a between-game practice this series) also left the bench during the first after a routine looking slash/stick-check from Crosby. Both would return by the start of the 2nd period, but Alzner couldn't play much more.
- Obviously a turning point of the game was the Orpik penalty. Needless move by him and it cost his team big-time. Nice to see the Pens PP (1 goal in the first 5 games of the series) score 2 quick ones.
- The Caps got 2 power plays of their own in the back-half of the 2nd period, with the score 0-3. They scored their first goal on the second of those to climb back into the game.
- We've dogged on Chris Kunitz a lot in the recaps, so only fair to point out how noticeable he was on the forecheck, throwing his body around and making big hits and opening up pucks. Still not all that confident in his hands with the puck on his stick, but it's certainly no lack of effort or drive on his part. He took the first delay of game penalty though on a play he probably could have made but, hey. It happens, right?
- Hagelin and Kessel (the two goal scorers in the second) were the Pens best forwards in the 2nd period and not just for the goals. Both had great jumps and each had a glorious scoring chance aside from their goal that didn't end up in the net.
- Pens couldn't stay out of the box lately and that hurt them big time. They're lucky to advance giving the Caps potent PP so many chances, especially late when they were going to make a push anyways.
- Jokes will be had at Ovechkin and Holtby's expense, but they were both great tonight and mostly all series.
- And a stick tap to our friends at Japers' Rink. A great blog and one of the best in the business.
- Kessel with 2 grapes and an apple was a straight up boss tonight.
The Penguins will move on to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. By virtue of a better regular season, Pittsburgh will have home-ice advantage. In many ways, it's a shame the Pens/Caps had to play in the 2nd round; they were easily the best 2 teams in the East (and arguably league) this season. But, such is life, and the Pens earned 4 wins before the Caps could, and that's all that matters tonight.
2 down, 2 to go.