The Penguins did it. They came up big when they needed to, winning a Game 7 on the road at the Verizon Center against the Washington Capitals. Someone had to be a hero, and last night, Bryan Rust got the ball rolling for the Pens.
After a tight-checking scoreless first period, the longer the game went on without a goal, the more we were all dying — and then the Penguins forecheck came into play. Combine that with the defensemen and their aggressive pinching into the offensive zone, and it created a goal.
As Matt Niskanen goes behind the net with Daniel Winnik to retrieve a puck, the Penguins three forwards on the ice — Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Bryan Rust, are all up ice trying to force the Capitals into a mistake of having to alter their breakout.
Just as Niskanen is getting to the puck, Crosby gets close to him, which was enough to knock the puck just a bit loose and forced him to regain possession of it.
As Niskanen nears the corner, you can see the puck was still loose, giving Bryan Rust time to close in on him and force him to use the boards to clear it, instead of using the middle of the ice, which was open.
As Niskanen attempts to clear it, he’s able to get it past Bryan Rust, but the puck also bounces over the stick of Alex Ovechkin. Lurking behind Ovechkin is Ian Cole, who is pinching in to try and keep the puck in.
As the puck bounces over Ovechkin, Cole is right there ready to step up and make a play.
The puck bounces to Cole, and it one motion, he gains possession of it and quickly sends it back towards the Capitals net.
Cole’s pass finds Sidney Crosby turning back towards Braden Holtby, with Guentzel to his left, and Rust to his right.
As Jake Guentzel gets the puck, it would’ve been so so so easy to hurry up and put it on net, but Holtby would have stopped it. Guentzel sensed Dimitri Orlov going down to the ice and exploited that.
Guentzel made a move around Orlov, and looked for Bryan Rust. The key play here was Sidney Crosby occupying Matt Niskanen and taking him out of the play.
Guentzel makes a world-class pass and you know Big Game Bryan Rust wasn’t missing that one. 1-0 Penguins, and they didn’t look back.
You can see the whole play below:
Patric Hornqvist would make it 2-0, and the Penguins played the third period of their lives to close out the game and eliminate the Capitals.
Back to the Conference Finals, this time the opponent being the Ottawa Senators. See you on Saturday.