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Round 2

T.J. Oshie of Capitals has knack for scoring against Penguins

Forward looking to continue trend in second-round series

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- T.J. Oshie has a knack for scoring against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Washington Capitals forward had six points (five goals, one assist) in six games in the 2016 Eastern Conference Second Round against the Penguins, including a hat trick in Game 1. He finished with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) against Pittsburgh in four games this season.  

The Capitals and Penguins will play each other in the second round again, with Game 1 at Verizon Center on Thursday (7:30 p.m.; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Pittsburgh eliminated Washington from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games. Oshie and linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin were deployed mostly against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins' top line.

That's the kind of challenge that gets Oshie going, and he'll likely get a chance to replicate that in this series.

"The competition, just kind of the rivalry, the matchup we have," Oshie said. "It's a big job. Typically we're going against Crosby's line and that's a tough task; he's a great player. You can get motivation from that and kind of the game within the game. Last few years the puck found the net for me, and hopefully it will be the same. You have to get it there though."

In his second season with Washington, Oshie scored an NHL career-high 33 goals and had 56 points. He can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but all talk of that can wait until after the playoffs.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Oshie puts home rebound for PPG

Washington is 1-8 in playoff series against Pittsburgh. Oshie wasn't around in 2009 when the Capitals lost in Game 7 of the second round and the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh won the Cup last year after defeating Washington, and the Capitals don't want that to happen again.

To make it to the Eastern Conference Final, which the Capitals have not done since 1998, for the first time during Ovechkin's 12-year NHL career, they know they must get past the Penguins.

"It's going to come down to whoever can play their game the best and for the longest amount of time," Oshie said. "Last year they played better longer than we did, and it showed in the results. We'll look to change that this year. We understand it's going to be a big test. But mostly for us it's just focusing on us and how long we can play."

Backstrom said Oshie's drive to be involved in every play and his versatility are what make him so good, especially against the Penguins.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm4: Oshie goes five-hole for his second

"Maybe that's why it suits him," Backstrom said. "It's exciting for him too. It's not just him who gets excited, all of us are."

Oshie was the Capitals' leading scorer in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs with seven points (three goals, four assists). Coach Barry Trotz has stressed in the past that players can't be scared to step up in big moments because the playoffs are full of big moments. Each game there's a chance for someone to make a difference.

"The games where you play teams that are weaker, he's still a beast out there," Capitals forward Jay Beagle said of Oshie. "But he really elevates his game and knows how to elevate his game for big moments. That's why he's so important, so vital for this team."

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