Lightning presents Capitals with a foe even more daunting than the Penguins

Heather Diaz
May 9, 2018

The Capitals earned the franchise's first trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 20 years when they ousted two-time defending champion Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs. They won the series 4-2 as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the overtime goal in game six.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray won the Stanley Cup in each of his first two National Hockey League postseasons. Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point had three each; Center Steven Stamkos and defenseman Dan Girardi had two, the latter tallying the overtime victor in Game 4, and center Anthony Cirelli had his first playoff goal to round out the secondary scoring. That's hardly the case with the Jets, who until a month ago had won exactly zero postseason games in their 18 years of existence and now find themselves one victory away from the Western Conference finals.

"I can tell you there's not a player, a coach, a trainer, ownership, (general manager) who is not trying to do everything they can to win this series", Trotz said. Nobody wants to believe in us.

"I don't have the words right now", Kuhnhackl said.

This was just the second time that Washington was able to knock off Pittsburgh in a playoff series during the team's last 11 match ups, dating back to 1994.

Seated in a box with Ben Roethlisberger, David DeCastro, and JuJu Smith-Schuster among others and the game tied at 1-1 late in the second period, Villanueva felt the time was right to strip off his Penguins jersey and douse himself with beer. "I thought our window had closed and we had an old team and we had five rookies".

After the glorious sighs of relief, the locker-room cheers and the occasional curse word, the Washington Capitals packed their equipment into bags, the start of a process for which the franchise has been waiting 20 years: preparing for the Eastern Conference finals. Crosby patted Ovechkin in the chest several times as to say well done.

The Penguins have been impossible to finish off since coach Mike Sullivan took over in December 2015.

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"They know what it takes to win", Sullivan said. That's all you can ask.

"They're a good team", Holtby said. And after 13 seasons, 1,003 career games and 109 career playoff games, Ovechkin has finally reached the conference final.

Kris Letang scored for the Penguins and Murray finished with 28 saves but couldn't close his legs fast enough to stop Kuznetsov's forehand flick from in close as Pittsburgh's bid at becoming the first team in 35 years to win three consecutive Cups came to an abrupt end.

Each team also found a bunch of scoring opportunities in the third period, but no one could convert until Kuznetsov's overtime goal. He's not a passenger in this run to the conference finals, but a driver.

"It feels great. I've never been in this position before", Ovechkin said after the game. "Just go out there and lay it out there and see how it goes".

"When you get that far, that's one post".

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