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playoffs

5 Reasons: Why Capitals were eliminated

Ovechkin's silent supporting cast, slow starts helped seal Washington's fate

by Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

There's a narrative that surrounds the Washington Capitals: They can't fight through the pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and waste the chances they have to advance. However true that may have been in the past, their early exit this season shouldn't be attributed to that.

In the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals had the misfortune of running into the hottest team in the NHL. Still, it was a tight series. All but one game was decided by more than one goal, and when the Capitals played their best, it still wasn't good enough to beat the Penguins.

Here are 5 reasons the Capitals were eliminated:

1. SECOND-GUESSING

Early in the series, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the playoffs were not the time to teach lessons to players, but then in succession scratched defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt when each made a bad play in a game. This, while defenseman Brooks Orpik was serving a three-game suspension for a hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in Game 2. Trotz didn't seem to trust the players that carried the load during the season, when Orpik missed 41 games with a lower-body injury.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm 5: Ovechkin fires a one-timer for PPG

2. LONELY CAPTAIN

Left wing Alex Ovechkin takes a lot of heat when the Capitals experience a playoff exit, but the Washington captain often was the best player on the ice for the Capitals in the second round. He just didn't get the offensive support he needed from his teammates, aside from T.J. Oshie, who scored five goals against the Penguins. Ovechkin finished the series with seven points.

3. TOO PHYSICAL

During the regular season, the Capitals prided themselves on being able to play any style of game, but had trouble matching the fleet-footed Penguins in this series. Washington also looked to be focused on going for hits rather than trying to keep up with Pittsburgh's speed. The Capitals often struggled to move the puck and looked heavy on the back end.

4. STARTING SLOWLY

The Capitals were one of the best third-period teams in the NHL during the regular season, but their slow starts haunted them in the postseason, and that was like playing with fire against the Penguins. Over 12 playoff games, the Capitals scored five times in the first period, but 13 times in the third period. In Game 6, ultimately the series-deciding game, Washington fell behind 3-0 and climbed back to tie the game and force overtime. They relied on their ability to come back in games but didn't seem to figure out how get a lead and then protect it. Game 5, in which the Capitals protected a 3-1 lead into the third period, was the exception.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Bonino buries rebound to clinch series

5. NO PUCK LUCK 

The Capitals weren't eliminated because they played badly. There were bad stretches of play for both teams during the series, and several Penguins players said they probably didn't deserve to win a couple of the games they did. That was apparent in Game 3, when the Capitals put 49 shots on goal and Penguins goalie Matt Murray stopped 47 of them. When the Capitals did play well, the Penguins always had an answer. Things just didn't seem to go Washington's way, even when it did all the right things.

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