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Playoff Notebook -- May

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
May 2 vs. Pittsburgh, Game 1

Kid Snuff –
Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov was tremendous in Washington’s seven-game opening-round series win over the New York Rangers. He allowed just seven goals in six games, pitched a pair of shutouts, allowed as many as three goals once (the last one with fewer than five seconds remaining), and fashioned a 1.17 GAA and a .953 save pct.

So the story heading into the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins was, how would the 21-year-old Russian rookie fare against a team with the Penguins’ firepower, speed and skill? The early returns are in; Varlamov was spectacular in stopping 34 of 36 Pittsburgh shots to help the Caps to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Pittsburgh.

Penguins star Sidney Crosby beat Varlamov early in the game, snapping a wrister past the young netminder at 4:09 of the first, before the Caps were even able to get a shot on Varlamov’s counterpart, Marc-Andre Fleury.

After the Caps killed an interference penalty to Sergei Fedorov, Varlamov made three more quick saves in succession, keeping the Caps close despite Pittsburgh’s advantage in territorial play and its 11-2 advantage in shots on goal.

At that point, the game turned in Washington’s favor. The Caps won a defensive zone draw and went off down the ice with speed on a rush. Matt Bradley fired a shot from a deep angle and center David Steckel, crashing the net, got a stick on the rebound and directed it past Fleury to even the score.

After the Caps took a 2-1 lead, Varlamov made a great stop on Mark Eaton midway through the second before Eaton beat him at 12:54 on a floater from the point. With the game even at 2-2, Varlamov shot the door and shut it tight. He stopped the next 17 in succession, including a great stop on Petr Sykora and an all-time highlight reel stick save on Crosby with the Pens buzzing late in the second.

Fleury is the guy who backstopped his team to the Stanley Cup finals last spring, but the Pens goalie was bested by the Caps’ kid here today.

Four Straight –
The victory was Varlamov’s fourth in succession, matching a Capitals franchise record for consecutive playoff wins. He is now 5-2 with a 1.29 GAA and a .950 save pct. in seven playoff starts this spring. Varlamov has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his seven Stanley Cup playoff starts. 

Hard Hat –
Steckel earned the hard hat for his yeoman work on Saturday. Besides his goal, he won 11 of 17 (65%) face-offs including six of seven in the final frame. Steckel, who averaged 13:49 a game during the regular season, skated 19:11 on Saturday. Included in that ice time was 5:43 of shorthanded ice time to lead all players from both sides.

Big Bad John – Prior to Saturday’s Game 1, Caps defenseman John Erskine talked about the Caps’ need to play physical against Pittsburgh’s talented group of forwards.

“We’ve got to shut them down and not give them the opportunity to carry the puck that much and play a physical game against them,” said Erskine.

On Saturday, the burly Caps blueliner backed it up. Playing 18:19 on the afternoon, Erskine dished out eight hits on the day, five more than any other player from either club.

May 4 vs. Pittsburgh, Game 2
Star Struck –
Monday’s Game 2 in the Washington-Pittsburgh Eastern Conference Semifinal Series was one for the ages. The game’s top two offensive stars put on a memorable display, as Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby each recorded his first playoff hat trick in the same game.

The difference in Washington’s 4-3 win over Pittsburgh was a David Steckel goal late in the second period and the goaltending heroics of 21-year-old Caps rookie Simeon Varlamov.

Crosby got the Pens staked to a 1-0 lead when he jammed a rebound past Varlamov at 6:38 of the first. Ovechkin drew the Caps even when he converted a brilliant play by Sergei Fedorov and a subsequent pass from Viktor Kozlov. It was one of two goals on the the night that featured all three Russians; Ovechkin from Kozlov and Fedorov.

Crosby restored the Pittsburgh lead midway through the second before Steckel scored his second in as many games at 15:49 of the middle frame, sending the game into the third tied 2-2 for the second time in as many games in this series.

Pittsburgh failed to cash in on a power play chance midway through the frame, and then the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin took an offensive zone tripping call at the exact second that the Pittsburgh man-advantage expired.

Malkin’s backside barely graced the penalty box bench before Ovechkin turned on the red light for the second time in the game. Washington needed just four seconds of power play time for Nicklas Backstrom to win the offensive zone face-off to Mike Green, and for Green to slide the puck to Ovechkin. The Caps’ left wing unleashed his lethal one-timer from high in the slot, and it beat Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury cleanly.

Just 2:29 later, Ovechkin sent a cascade of hats on the ice when he again blazed one past Fleury. It was Washington’s first playoff hat trick since Al Iafrate scored three times in a game against the New York Islanders on April 26, 1993.

New York’s Ray Ferraro also scored four goals in that game, a 6-4 Washington win at USAir Arena. Until tonight, that was the only time in NHL playoff history that two players for different teams had both recorded hat tricks in the same game.

Five Alive – Monday’s win extended Washington’s playoff winning streak to five, the longest in team history. The Caps had won four straight games in the postseason on four previous occasions, most recently in 1991.

Got His Number –
Exactly three years ago tonight, the Hershey Bears took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven East Division final series over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with a 5-4 road win over the Baby Pens.

Fleury was in goal for the Baby Pens that night, and he was victimized by all five Hershey goals. The fourth of those tallies came from Steckel.

Fleury was in goal again for Game 3 of that series, a 4-1 Hershey win. Steckel beat Fleury again in that contest.

In Game 1 of the current series between the Caps and the Penguins, Steckel scored Washington’s first goal of the game against Fleury. And of course, in Game 2, he tallied again.

So, four playoff games for Steckel against Fleury. Four playoff goals against Fleury.

15 With a Bullet –
Fedorov’s two-assist night gives him six points (one goal, five assists) in this year’s playoffs and 174 points (52 goals, 122 assists) during his NHL playoff career. He now moves ahead of former Penguin Mario Lemieux for 15th place on the league’s all-time playoff scoring list.

Fedorov ranks seventh all-time on playoff assists and is tops among all active players in that category.

Sacrifice – Washington blocked a total of 23 shots in Monday’s Game 2, with 19 of them being snuffed out by the Capitals’ defense corps. Tom Poti, Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Green led the way with four blocked shots each.

Shooting Gallery –
Washington limited the New York Rangers to an average of just 23.7 shots on goal per game in the seven-game first round set between the two teams. Pittsburgh has now fired 36 shots on goal in each of the first two games of the second-round playoff series between the Caps and the Pens.

May 6 at Pittsburgh, Game 3
Still Need Two –
For the final 1:50 of regulation and for the first 11-plus minutes of overtime, the Capitals were one shot away from being in a completely unfamiliar position – up three games to none in a playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kris Letang’s goal at 11:23 of overtime gave the Penguins a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between Pittsburgh and the Capitals. The goal kept the Caps from forging a daunting 3-0 series lead, instead enabling the Pens to make a series of it. Washington holds a 2-1 lead in the series with the pivotal Game 4 slated for Friday night here in Pittsburgh.

Washington grabbed an early lead on a fluke goal, going up 1-0 on its first shot of the game when Alex Ovechkin scored his eighth of the postseason. Mike Green’s dump-in from the red line took a wicked carom off a seam in the glass behind the Pittsburgh cage, bouncing directly into the high slot as Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury scrambled to get back in position. Ovechkin dove for the loose puck and fired it into the yawning cage.

Fleury was shaky in the early going, and the Caps were putting decent pressure on him. Washington moved the puck crisply and cleanly, generating scoring chances off the rush and threatening to pad its lead, a rare luxury in this series. (Of the 191:23 played in the three games, only 4:07 of it has been played with one of the two teams leading by more than a goal.) The Caps got the game’s first power play at 9:38 of the first period, but managed only a single shot on goal.

Soon after that, the Caps started a consistent stream of trips to the box. Washington was whistled for six minors during regulation, getting two in each period. The Caps were forced to kill a seventh Pittsburgh power play during the overtime session before Letang’s goal.

From the time Michael Nylander began the Caps’ string of minor penalties with an interference infraction at 12:47 of the first to the end of regulation, a span of 47:13, Washington was outshot by a total of 32-13.

Despite being outplayed and spending the majority of time in their own end of the ice, chasing rather than possessing the puck, the Caps managed to minimize prime Pittsburgh scoring chances. Goaltender Simeon Varlamov had the answer to the prime ones Pittsburgh did get, and the Caps nursed their 1-0 lead into the middle of the second period.

Pittsburgh’s Ruslan Fedotenko broke down the right side on a 2-on-1 with the Caps’ Milan Jurcina as the lone man back. Fedotenko tried to slide a pass across to Maxime Talbot, and Jurcina expertly blunted it as Varlamov slid to cover Talbot. The puck bounced off Jurcina and right back to Fedotenko. He deposited the puck in the vacated side of the net to even the score at 1-1.

Washington spent most of the second and third period dodging bullets in its own end and watching as Varlamov continued to stymie the Pens. Finally, at 15:01 of the third, the Pens broke through when Evgeni Malkin ripped a wrist shot from the high slot that eluded Varlamov high and to the glove side. Malkin’s goal came on the Penguins’ sixth power play chance of the night, while Alexander Semin was serving a sentence for hooking.

The Caps got a late power play of their own after six straight Pittsburgh man advantages, and Washington made the best of its rare extra-man chance when Nicklas Backstrom banked a shot off Fleury’s backside and into the net with just 1:50 remaining in regulation.

Washington had a couple decent chances late in regulation, and two terrific ones early in the overtime. Ovechkin fanned on a bouncing pass from Backstrom in the first minute of the extra period. Seconds later, he carved to the high slot and found himself with enough time and space to unleash a shot from a spot from which he has scored frequently over the years. But before he could tee it up, the puck wobbled away from him and the scoring chance evaporated.

Letang’s game-winner came after Crosby beat Washington’s David Steckel on a draw in the Capitals’ end. The puck came back to Pens defenseman Mark Eaton, and he slid it to center point for a one-timer from Letang. The puck deflected off Caps defenseman Shaone Morrison and changed directions, ringing off the crossbar above Varlamov’s glove hand and going in. Steckel won nine of his 12 draws (75%) with Crosby on the night, but all three of his losses came in the Washington zone.

Letang joins a lengthy list of Penguins who have inflicted overtime playoff pain upon the Capitals over the years: Kevin Stevens, Luc Robitaille, Petr Nedved, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka.

History Lesson – Tonight was Washington’s first overtime game in its 10 contests this spring. It had been the longest the Caps had gone between overtime playoff games since they went a franchise 17 straight games without needing an extra session.

May 8 at Pittsburgh, Game 4
House of Horrors –
After Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series, Washington is now 7-16 all-time in postseason games at Mellon Arena. The Caps are 1-5 in overtime contests played at the Igloo.

Since winning the first two games of the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series against the Pens in Pittsburgh, the Capitals are 1-7 in postseason games played at Mellon Arena.

Short Stuff – Milan Jurcina’s shorthanded goal in the third period of Friday’s Game 4 was the first shorthanded strike of his NHL career in the regular season or the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon assisted on Jurcina’s shorthanded goal. For both Bradley and Gordon, it was the second shorthanded point they’d collected in the postseason. Bradley scored Washington’s only other shorthanded goal of the playoffs in Game 5 of the opening round series against the Rangers, and Gordon earned one of the assists on that strike.

Four Score – For the first time in 10 playoff starts, Caps goaltender Simeon Varlamov was nicked for more than three goals in a game. Facing the fewest shots on goal (28) he had faced in the four games against the Pens, Varlamov gave up five goals.

On The Board – Caps captain Chris Clark netted his first Stanley Cup playoff goal as a member of the Capitals when he hammered home a rebound of a Mike Green shot. Clark’s previous goal in the playoffs came in 2004 when he was a member of the Calgary Flames.

Shot Shutdown – The Capitals kept the Penguins from registering a shot on goal for more than 15 minutes at the end of the second period and in the early seconds of the third. Washington pulled within a goal on Clark’s tally during that stretch.

Two-Goal Lead – When Pittsburgh’s Ruslan Fedotenko beat the Caps’ Simeon Varlamov with a wrister at 15:25 of the first period, it marked the first time in the series that the Pens enjoyed a lead of more than one goal.

Lead After Two – Friday night’s Game 4 marked the first time in this series that the two teams weren’t tied heading into the final frame. Pittsburgh took a 3-2 lead in to the third on Friday.

May 9 vs. Pittsburgh, Game 5
Seen This Movie Before? –
Three nights ago, the Caps were a shot away from taking a 3-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series. Now, they’re a loss away from cleaning out their lockers and scattering across the globe for the summer.

For the second time in the last three games, a Caps-Pens playoff game went to overtime. For the second time in the last three games, the Caps were unable to convert a prime scoring chance in the opening minute of the extra session. For the second time in the last three games, Pittsburgh won an overtime decision when a Washington defenseman inadvertently put the puck into his own net.

The worst nightmares of longtime Caps fans are now on the cusp of becoming reality. Pittsburgh and Washington have met seven times previous in best-of-seven  Stanley Cup playoff series. The Penguins have won six of those series. In two of those three series losses, the Caps held a 3-1 series lead before collapsing. In another, the Caps were up 2-0 before bowing out.

Before losing each of the last three games to the Pens, the Caps held a 2-0 lead in this series, too.

After falling behind on Jordan Staal’s first goal of the series early in the second period of Game 5, the Caps responded quickly and evened the scored on Alex Ovechkin’s ninth goal of the playoffs 59 seconds later. Nicklas Backstrom gave the Caps their first lead of the night with a power play goal at 14:35 of the middle period.

Having put together arguably their best 40 minutes of the series, the Capitals were 20 good minutes away from taking a 3-2 lead in the series and retaining home ice advantage. Unfortunately for the Capitals, what followed were seven bad minutes, seven flat minutes that ended up costing the Caps the game.

Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin made a great play to set up a Ruslan Fedotenko goal just 51 seconds into the final frame. Ex-Cap Matt Cooke pounced on a rebound – something the Pens have done with regularity and the Caps have done with scarcity in this series – and he beat Caps netminder Simeon Varlamov to give the Penguins a 3-2 edge at 6:27 of the third. Varlamov had stopped Cooke’s linemates – Staal and Tyler Kennedy – on successive shots prior to Cooke’s rebound strike.

Meanwhile, the Caps were still seeking their first shot of the period.

“Obviously we came out in the third and after the first shift when we got it in deep, then we kind of stopped playing hockey,” said Caps center David Steckel. “I don’t know if we sat back or they took two goals in five minutes or whatever it was. We needed to come out harder.”

Washington came back to life later in the period, and got the equalizer on a great pass from Backstrom to Ovechkin, who netted his 10th of the playoffs with 4:08 remaining in regulation.

Caps fans had to be hoping for one more regulation goal from their heroes, because overtime has not been historically kind to the Caps in the playoffs.

Steckel was unable to cash in on a strong scoring chance in the first minute of overtime, and soon afterwards, the Caps went shorthanded when Milan Jurcina was framed for tripping Malkin, In reality, it was Sergei Fedorov who was the culprit. Fedorov was forced to take Malkin down when the powerful winger beat him wide on his way to the net.

The Caps were seconds away from killing the penalty when Malkin skated along the right wing wall and threw a centering pass toward the middle of the ice where Sidney Crosby was going to the net, as he has done all series. Caps defenseman Tom Poti laid out to break up the pass and ended up deflecting into his own goal. The Pens had their third win in four nights and a 3-2 series lead.

History Lesson – For longtime Caps fans, the numbers are nightmarish. Washington is now 1-7 against the Penguins in playoff overtime games and 0-2 on home ice. The Capitals have now dropped seven straight overtime games in the playoffs and are now 1-8 in their last nine overtime playoff games.

Since 1990, the Caps have won just one overtime game at home. That was on Todd Krygier’s overtime game-winner – the final tally of his NHL career, as it turned out – on May 25, 1998 against Buffalo on the Eastern Conference final. The Caps are 1-7 in their last eight home overtime playoff games.

Each of Washington’s last four overtime losses at home in the playoffs has come on a power play goal from the opposition.

Ovi – Ovechkin had another huge third period goal in Game 5, a routine occurrence for him during the regular season. Ovechkin’s 10 playoff goals leads the NHL, and his 17 points matches a Washington franchise record for most points in a playoff season.

May 11 at Pittsburgh, Game 6
Best of One –
As hard as it would have been to believe before it started, the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the Capitals and the Penguins may have actually exceeded the pre-series hype that the North American hockey media heaped upon it. And after Washington’s 5-4 overtime win in Monday’s Game 6 in Pittsburgh, this set will get the Game 7 it so richly deserves, on Wednesday in Washington.

David Steckel’s goal at 6:22 of overtime made a winner of Washington, forcing Game 7. Steckel won an offensive zone draw from Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot, causing the Penguin pivot’s stick to break in the process. Steckel then went to the net.

Matt Bradley pushed the puck up the wall to Brooks Laich, who launched a shot toward the net. With his stick just above waist high, Steckel, jousting with Pens defenseman Philippe Boucher, got a blade on Laich’s shot, deflecting it past Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

For Steckel, it was his third goal of the series and the fifth time in eight postseason games (including AHL playoff contest) that he has beaten Fleury.

Steckel’s strike capped off a game full of high drama, lead changes, key saves and narrow misses. It was the fifth one-goal game in the six contests in the series, and the third to go to overtime. Each of the three overtime game-winners – two by the Penguins and one by the Caps – was the result of a deflection.

Not Going Down – Washington is now 7-1 in “win or go home” games over the last two seasons.

Reversal of Fortune – Overtime wins in the playoffs for Washington have been rare indeed over the last decade plus. Steckel’s overtime game-winner was the first supplied by a Capital since Jeff Halpern struck against the Pens in the extra session at Mellon Arena on April 18, 2001.

Steckel and Halpern are the only two Caps to score an overtime game-winner in the playoffs since Joé Juneau’s goal against the Sabres on June 4, 1998. Juneau’s goal won the Eastern Conference final for Washington and sent the Caps to the lone Stanley Cup final appearance of their history.

Steckel’s goal kept Washington’s postseason hopes alive; each of Washington’s last three playoff exits have come in overtime. Steckel’s goal also ended a skid of seven straight overtime losses for the Caps in the playoffs.

The Capitals are now 2-7 all-time in playoff overtime games against the Penguins.

The Great Eight –
Alex Ovechkin did not add to his total of 10 playoff goals on this night, but he did have three assists. He is tied for the league lead (with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby) with 10 playoff goals and leads the league with 20 points, 87 shots on goal and a plus-11 defensive rating.

Nick Streak –
With his helper on Viktor Kozlov’s second goal of the night, Caps center Nicklas Backstrom tallied his 12th  assist of the postseason, one shy of matching the Caps’ all-time single season playoff record of 13 set by Andrei Nikolishin in 1998.

The Game 6 assist extended Backstrom’s franchise record scoring streak to nine straight games (three goals, eight assists). Backstrom is second in the NHL in playoff assists and is fifth in the league in playoff scoring with 15 points.

May 13 vs. Pittsburgh, Game 7
Summer’s Here –
A week ago tonight, the Capitals were one goal away from taking a 3-0 chokehold in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tonight, the Caps were unceremoniously ushered out of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs after a humbling 6-2 beatdown on home ice Wednesday.

A series that featured so much drama, so many close games, so many changes of momentum and the lead ended anticlimactically along with Washington’s 2008-09 season.

“I really can’t put into words exactly what happened tonight,” said Caps defenseman Brian Pothier. “Honestly, I don’t know. We didn’t have good legs. We didn’t make good passes. We did a lot of things wrong. I don’t think it was lack of effort.

“You have these games during the regular season where nothing goes right for you and it seems like everyone on the team’s legs are in quicksand and the puck just blows up every time it touches your stick. You rarely see that in the playoffs, nevermind a Game 7 of a pretty phenomenal series.”

The Caps were in this one for just over half of the first period, right up until Shaone Morrisonn went off for an ill-advised slashing call at 11:29 of the first. Just over a minute later, the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby scored a power play goal to give his team a 1-0 lead.

And then the floodgates began to open.

Craig Adams scored his first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal (in his 13th career postseason game) just eight seconds after Crosby’s goal, giving the Pens a 2-0 lead.

Washington mustered nothing in the way of offense the rest of the period; the Pens had a 11-1 advantage in shots on goal after the Morrisonn foul. Varlamov made eight straight stops after Adams’ goal.

Puck management had been a problem for the Caps throughout the series and it came to the fore at the worst time. Washington committed a staggering total of 11 first-period giveaways in Wednesday’s Game 7 while Pittsburgh had none during the same span. The Caps also continued to force shots and passes, another bad habit that dogged them periodically throughout the season and in this series in particular.

As poorly as they played over the last half of the first, the game was not out of hand at that point. But the Caps again came out flat in the second, and that was ultimately their death knell.

The Penguins’ Bill Guerin scored just 28 seconds into the middle frame, giving Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead and all the goals it would need on this night. Guerin’s goal marked the first time either team had owned a lead of as much as three goals at any point in the series. The Penguins would lead by at least three goals the rest of the way.

Less than two minutes later, Kris Letang put an end to Varlamov’s strong postseason run when he beat the Caps rookie goaltender high on the short, glove side.

Having allowed goals on consecutive shots for the second time in the game and having surrendered four goals on 18 shots overall, Varlamov was pulled in favor of Jose Theodore at that point, 2:13 into the second.

Washington added a couple of window-dressing goals later in the game, but didn’t score its first goal until the Pens had already forged a 5-0 lead.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Caps center Brooks Laich. “We did a lot of good things this year, but this game tonight is the way the season is going to be remembered. And it’s a shame because I thought a lot of our players did a lot of really good things and as an organization I thought we did a lot of good things. It’s a sour note along there.”

The Capitals finished the postseason squarely even at 7-7. They were 4-4 on Verizon Center ice after having started the 2008-09 regular season by going 18-1-1 in their first 20 home games.

“If you look at the game tonight,” said Laich, “they were more composed with the puck. And the other thing that they did, and the reason they won the game is because they outworked us. It’s not easy to stand in front of you guys and say that we were outworked on our own building in Game 7.

“Winning is a science. You have to learn how to do it. It’s the same as losing. When you lose, you learn from it. But it takes a lot to learn how to win. That team has done it before. They made it to the [Stanley Cup] finals last year. They are a very good hockey team. Tonight, they beat us.”

Almost Halfway – For Washington, this was the longest a hockey season had run since the 1997-98 team advanced into the Stanley Cup finals and played into the month of June.

On this date in 1998, the Caps defeated the Ottawa Senators on the road by a 2-0 count in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series. That win gave the Caps a 3-1 lead in the series, and they clinched the set with a home ice win over the Senators two nights later.

That 1998 series with Ottawa and this year’s first-round set with the Rangers are the only two Stanley Cup playoff series the Caps have ever clinched on Verizon Center ice since the building opened in Dec. 1997.

A First – The Capitals have now played a total of 182 playoff games in their history. Tonight’s game marked the first time ever that they did not have a single power play in a playoff game. It was also the only time all season – a total of 92 games including the regular season – that the Caps did not have a single man-advantage opportunity during the game.

For the series, Pittsburgh had 34 power plays to Washington’s 19. The Penguins had 14 first-period power plays to Washington’s 10, they had a 7-6 edge over the Caps in second-period power plays, and Pittsburgh owned a whopping 13-3 bulge in third-period power plays for the series.

Great Eight – Alex Ovechkin scored his 11th goal of the postseason in Game 7 and finished with points in every game of this series (14 points in seven games). He had 11 goals in his last 11 games of the 2009 playoffs. Ovechkin now has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in nine elimination games in his career.

Grisly History – This series marks the fourth time the Caps have been two games up on the Penguins in a playoff series, but have failed to win it. The Capitals had 3-1 series leads over the Penguins in the 1992 and 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs, but lost three straight games and the series on both occasions.

The Caps led their 1996 Stanley Cup playoff series with Pittsburgh 2-0 but lost in six games and led this year’s series 2-0 before bowing out in seven.

Washington is now 17-15 all-time in Games 1-4 against the Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs and an almost unfathomable 2-15 against the Pens in Games 5-7.

Lead Changes – During Washington’s first-round series with the New York Rangers, there were a total of two lead changes in the seven-game set. In the second-round series between the Capitals and the Penguins, there were nine lead changes including at least one in each of the first six games. There were three lead changes in Game 6 alone.

First Follies – The Caps were outshot 12-1 in the last half of the first period in Wednesday’s Game 7. In the final two games of this series, Pittsburgh outshot Washington 34-10 in the first period.

Streak Snapped – Caps center Nicklas Backstrom did not record a point in Wednesday’s Game 7. It was the first game in the series in which Backstrom did not record a point, and it snapped his club record streak for consecutive games with a point at nine.

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