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Game 6 Recap: Pens season ends with Kuznetsov’s overtime goal

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Our recap of the final game of the Penguins 2017-18 season.

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Lineups

The Penguins are the same as Game 5, but the big news is the Capitals. Nicklas Backstrom was seen entering the arena with a wrapped hand, he doesn’t take warmups and is out. Travis Boyd gets in for his first NHL playoff game, and the Caps bench rookie Shane Gersich in favor of rookie Nathan Walker.

1st period

Not much at all going on early. Olli Maatta high-sticks a dude for a 2 minute penalty, Caps power play doesn’t do too much with it.

Jake Guentzel gets tripped and the Pens get a power play and they do even less with it, generating no chances or even good looks at the net.

Washington isn’t forechecking much, content to clog up the middle of the ice and pack in defensively and wait for a turnover.

Shots 7-6 Caps after 1. Only one scoring chance in the whole period (for PIT).

2nd period

Early in the 2nd the Caps 4th line strikes. Walker wheels in the zone and around the net, circling and finding Alex Chiasson with a pass on the right side. Chiasson fires quickly and beats Matt Murray short-side. Somewhat meh goal to give up, but in Murray’s defense it’s always challenging for a goalie when the puck goes behind the net and is put on target quickly, and the Pens defense in Riley Sheahan and Maatta just melt away from Caps players. 1-0.

A bit later Jakub Vrana gets a clean breakaway but Murray stops him. Big time job to keep it 1-0.

The Caps continue to pile up chances, Sidney Crosby turns the puck over to Evgeny Kuznetsov in the slot and he shoots just wide. Jamie Oleksiak breaks his stick trying to shoot and has to help defend a 4-on-2 for Washington that Murray stands tall on.

The Pens look like they’re running on E. But then, life. Sidney Crosby wins a o-zone draw to Dumoulin who bumps it over to the middle of the ice for Kris Letang. Letang fires, it strikes a Capital, changes direction and fools Holtby. Tie game.

By now Sullivan has juggled lines, Patric Hornqvist is back up on the right of Guentzel-Crosby. Kessel joins Rust-Malkin. And a checking line of Hagelin-Sheahan-Kuhnhackl is drawing the Ovechkin line, leaving Sheary-Brassard-Simon to get the scraps. Pretty good idea, as Simon wasn’t doing much of anything, and re-uniting Phil and Geno seemed necessary.

The Pens get 2 great scoring chances at the end of the period. First Phil works hard on the forecheck and forces Matt Niskanen to fall. The puck goes to Rust who moves to the net but a sprawling Caps defender prevents a pass and a shot. Play continues and Malkin finds Justin Schultz driving the middle of the ice. Schultz shoots quickly but right into the arm of Holtby. The period ends at 1-1 but on a higher note for the Pens after a gloomy first half.

Shots in the period are 9-8 Caps and 15-15 overall in the game. 5v5 Corsi is 31-30 Caps in the game. Scoring chances at 5v5 are 17-13 Pens.

3rd period

Refs swallow the whistles on both sides and the game resembles rugby with some puck scrums along the wall. The Pens push but Holtby makes all the stops. The Caps push but Murray makes all the stops.

Overtime

About 3:30 in, Tom Kuhnhackl gets a pass from Hagelin and beats Holtby — but not the post.

A minute later Oshie makes a nice pass to Carlson coming right down the middle he shoots and Murray saves and then bumps Murray on the fly-by.

And then, the Pens season is over. They try a breakout and the Caps are all hanging back patiently for the millionth time. They force a turnover and it’s Ovechkin who bumps the puck up the middle to Kuznetsov. Dumoulin and Letang were way wide and couldn’t recover. Kuznetsov in all alone, nice deke to his forehand and he tucks it 5-hole to end the series.

Congrats, old foe. Finally on the right side of a handshake. Now let’s see what you can do with it.

Some Thoughts

  • The Pens didn’t go down without a fight, but it just was a little too disjointed of an effort overall tonight. Maybe all the games may have caught up with them, they had injuries as all teams do at this time...They just found themselves on the wrong side of the thin line between winning and losing this time around and sort of looked like they were sputtering out of gas for the most part.
  • But the reason the Pens were so bogged down was that a quality team stepped up and knocked them off. So, for once, say it through your gritted teeth but congrats to the Caps on beating the Pens. It wasn’t pretty with all the nasty hits, but otherwise it was a masterfully executed defensive gameplan, tonight and for the most part all series. They were buoyed all series long by quality goaltending and very opportunistic skill players stepping up and burying key goals. Sounds a lot like the Pens teams of the past. Very weird to see the Capitals pull it off, but full credit to them on this one, they pulled it off.
  • And I guess...welcome to the off-season? Feels weird being such a stunning, jolting exit to depart the playoffs after two fairly good games in 5 & 6, but...season is over. A lot to digest and move forward from. Thanks to everyone for reading and your support to make this season so good. We’ll of course have you covered with all the happenings, analysis, news, rumors and plans for the off-season, so keep coming back. As long as there’s a Crosby and a Malkin on your team, you don’t really lose, you just reload for next year.