PHILADELPHIA -- After killing off a two-minute 5-on-3 power play early in the second period of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Philadelphia Flyers, the momentum shift for the Washington Capitals was tangible.
"The 5-on-3 today, if we don't get through that, this building probably explodes," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
At 4:25 of the second period, Nicklas Backstrom took a double minor for high sticking. Five seconds later, Matt Niskanen went off for hooking. The Flyers, who had forced a Game 6 with back-to-back wins, had all the momemtum and the home crowd behind them. But the Capitals had goalie Braden Holtby and a penalty kill that denied the Flyers all but once in 24 chances this series.
"We saw exactly what they wanted to do and Holtby made the big saves when he had to," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It was probably the turning point. We're happy that we could get the kill. PK was big this series."
Following the penalty kill, Backstrom scored the only goal of the game at 8:59 of the second and the Capitals won 1-0, advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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"It's one of those things that we pride ourselves on as a penalty-kill unit is deter momentum in those opportunities," Holtby, who made 26 saves for his second shutout of the series, said. "I don't know if that's the reason but Nick made a pretty perfect shot and we knew it was going to take a perfect shot to beat [Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth]. It was the goal we needed."
Washington was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill in Game 6 and finished the series 23-for-24. The Capitals scored eight power-play goals and allowed only six goals in this series, the fewest in a best-of-7 series in franchise history.
"We knew that they like to run two very specific plays and we had what we thought was a way to stop it," Alzner said. "It worked pretty good."
Trotz wasn't surprised the series was dictated by special teams. The power play would tell the story of one game and the penalty kill another.
"Every game had its nuances," Trotz said. "The early couple of games was all special teams, on both sides and those are big momentum swings more on our part. Then the game changed here a little bit after Game 3 and they took no penalties and it turned into a 5-on-5 game and a real defensive struggle in the last couple of games. It was grind."