National Hockey League roundup: Capitals stave off elimination

Ross Houston
May 9, 2017

The Capitals held off the Penguins last night and at least temporarily spared themselves the humiliation of yet another second round exit at the hands of the Penguins.

The Penguins, who have been outshot by large margins every single game, have been relying in large part on Marc-Andre Fleury being incredible and Holtby being human in their respective nets. Defensively, the Pittsburgh Penguins are allowing 2.8 goals per game and are killing 79.8 percent of their power play chances.

"We just have to have a short memory and get back for Game 6", Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said.

Then Kuznetsov's National Hockey League debut with the Capitals came against the Penguins, and even three years later, he smiles while recalling the thrill of being on the ice at the same as countryman Malkin.

It was the first Capitals' first goal from a bottom-six forward in the series. "We talked about winning (Game 5) and then going to Pittsburgh and win another game", Kuznetsov said.

Then there is reality - the Capitals trail the series 3-2 and again will face elimination when the teams meet Monday in Game 6 at PPG Paints Arena. I'm not, and would rather get behind the better team. Washington's dominance when both teams are at full strength has manifested itself in the shots on goal totals, which are tilted heavily in the Capitals' favor. Pittsburgh finished with just 18 shots on goal, tying its season low.

The Caps gave it all, and while dominating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in Game 6 to force a potentially classic Game 7 between two rivals on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., they left us wondering what the Penguins have left. Andre Burakovsky also scored for Washington. The offense tends to fizzle out quickly on the rare occasion they do get into the offensive zone. In addition, 23 shots on goal have come from the so-called high-danger area of the ice.

The Pittsburgh Penguins would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in five years with a victory here. Braden Holtby made 15 saves for Washington.

It feels like the Pittsburgh Penguins blew their chance to close out this series, and now the Capitals are in a comfortable spot where they'll be very confident on their home ice. "I'm still positive we're going to be able to pull it out, but (it's) tough (to play) 5-on-5 with the goalie pulled".

"All it's going to take is all we have, and all we have is our leadership, the 20 players we dress". How it got there is a different story. Kuznetsov quickly set up Oshie from the slot for a 1-0 lead at 12:41. This time last spring, they also fell behind 3-1, to the same team in the same round, before snatching Game 5 at Verizon Center. They didn't have much five-on-five continuity to begin with, and having to spend so much time on the penalty kill broke it up even more. Saturday was the first time in the series Fleury posted a sub-.900 SP, though, and while it would seem foolish to suggest one game means the Capitals have suddenly figured out how to beat this seemingly new-look playoff Fleury, blasting four pucks past the netminder is a positive sign for Washington.

"It's frustrating", Sullivan said. "You've got an opportunity to win a game like this and win a series at home".

The Penguins might have proven that they could play without some key components this season, but playing without Sidney Crosby is something else entirely.

Plus, let's not forget how last season's playoff series between Pittsburgh and Washington ended.

Ottawa erased its early deficit, pulling within one late in the first and scoring 33 seconds apart in the second to take a 3-2 lead on Pyatt's goal at 8:50.

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