Penguins look to future after three-peat bid ended by Capitals

Washington and Pittsburgh have a bitter rivalry dating back to the early 1990s.

Things looked like they were headed down the same path in the third Ovechkin-Crosby installment of Penguins and Capitals in the playoffs.

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.

Had you not known any better, you'd have thought the Capitals had just won the Stanley Cup, when in reality they had made it through just 25 percent of the NHL's post-season grind. The victor moves on to meet the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final.

May 1, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) celebrates with left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and teammates after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena.

It was the playoff matchup everyone was waiting for. The Capitals beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs for only the second time in 11 tries by playing a disciplined style dictated by Trotz, one that focuses on responsibility at both ends of the ice. He finished that series with a.887 SV % and a 2.4 GAA further hindering his record-breaking tenure. He won two of those games but in the other three games, he was.903 and below which just isn't cutting it. People will say he had issues with his glove hand but the book on just about every goaltender in the league is to go glove side. They will meet up with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East finals, the second meeting between these clubs in the Ovechkin era.

Washington's special teams were once again very good in their second-round series. That this time is different.

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Alex Ovechkin had played in 1,003 regular-season games and 109 playoff games without advancing beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals. Ovechkin has been the heart and soul of the Capitals this whole season and his entire career for that matter, and it showed in this series.

If the Capitals were an upstart team full of young talent and future promise, this would be considered a stepping stone.

Murray (28 saves) and Washington goalie Braden Holtby (21 saves) both made several spectacular stops that helped get the game to overtime. They scored some timely goals, and that was the difference in the series.

The Capitals repeatedly clogged up the neutral zone, and Pittsburgh often was effective defensively when Washington found chances. Prior the playoffs beginning, Holtby was struggling and relegated to the backup.

Washington dominated the entire six game series and finally got the much-needed goaltending that it had lacked for years in the playoffs. The Capitals players fed off of Holtby's play and were able to open up and play their style of game.

It was not an easy road for the Capitals.

Throughout the entire season, Washington had to struggle to win games.

  • Adam Floyd