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Playoff Buzz: What we learned Wednesday

Penguins, Ducks win Game 7, move on to conference finals

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. There are four teams remaining in the playoffs following two Game 7s on Wednesday. NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news. Here is the playoff news for Thursday:

The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their dominance in Game 7s on the road Wednesday, defeating the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center to reach the conference final for the second year in a row.

While the Penguins improved to 6-0 in Game 7s away from Pittsburgh, the Anaheim Ducks ended a four-game Game 7 home losing streak, defeating the Edmonton Oilers at Honda Center.

The Ducks will host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Friday. The Penguins will host the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday.

Here is the schedule for the conference finals.

Here's a look at what happened on Wednesday:

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Washington Capitals 0

Just when it looked as if things were finally going to go the Capitals' way, Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury turned in his best performance of the postseason. Fleury made 29 saves for the shutout, and Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist scored goals to lift the Penguins.

NHL.com columnist Nick Cotsonika writes about Fleury's big-game effort.

It was another disappointing end for the Capitals, who have not reached the conference final since 1998. NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti wonders where they go from here.

Video: Pens blank Caps in Game 7, advance to ECF

 

Anaheim Ducks 2, Edmonton Oilers 1

Who said the Ducks can't win a Game 7 at home? Nick Ritchie scored at 3:21 of the third period to break a 1-1 tied and carry the Ducks to their second conference final in three seasons.

Staff writer Lisa Dillman writes that the Ducks played a complete game to end their run of Game 7 losses.

Staff writer Tim Campbell sums up how the Oilers felt after coming up one goal short of the conference final, a big accomplishment for a team that finished next-to-last in the NHL in 2015-16.

Video: Ducks down Oilers in Game 7, move on to WCF

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 28 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

Penguins are winners

The Penguins played again with the heart of a Stanley Cup champion in defeating the Capitals. After the Penguins let a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series slip away with losses in Games 5 and 6, they regrouped and played their best game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fleury helped them withstand the Capitals' early push, and they gradually took over the game in the second and third periods. The Penguins are halfway to becoming the first Stanley Cup champion to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings, who won in 1997 and 1998. The Ottawa Senators are up next in the Eastern Conference Final.

Capitals are cursed

Well, maybe they're not cursed, but despite all their talent and regular-season success, they can't figure out how to get past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've won the Presidents' Trophy two seasons in a row and lost to the Penguins in the second round each time. This was the most complete team of the Alex Ovechkin era, which began in 2005-06, but they still couldn't get over the hump. With changes likely coming this summer, this might have been Ovechkin's last, best chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

Oilers aren't there -- yet

The Oilers got the start they wanted against the Ducks, with rookie Drake Caggiula scoring 3:31 into the game. Though Edmonton seemed to make the Ducks nervous for the duration of the first period, they couldn't grab control of the game, and from the second period on, could not stop the Ducks' attack. Edmonton may have a bright future, but on this night, the Oilers couldn't get over the hump.

Randy Carlyle made right moves

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has been known as one of the game's best in-game tacticians, and he lived up to that reputation in Game 7. The Ducks needed to match the Oilers' physical presence, so in the second period, Carlyle put physical forward Nick Ritchie on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and moved the more skilled but less physical Rickard Rakell to the third line. That's when the tide started to turn in the Ducks' favor.

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