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Buddies Kevin Shattenkirk, Nick Bonino on opposite sides

High stakes for Capitals defenseman, Penguins center in playoff series between bitter foes

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON. Va. -- What irked Washington Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk the most about the Pittsburgh Penguins' winning goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Thursday, other than being at least partially to blame for it, was that center Nick Bonino scored it.

Shattenkirk, 28, and Bonino, 29, have been good friends since 2007, when they met as freshmen teammates at Boston University. They later were roommates and became close enough that Shattenkirk stood up as Bonino's best man at his wedding in 2014.

"We're very, very close friends," Shattenkirk said Friday, a day off before Game 2 of the best-of-7 series at Verizon Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). "I also know that he's an extremely competitive person and we've battled for years in many different ways, in practices, on the golf course. There's plenty of different ways that we've gone against each other and we always want to beat each other."

This being the first time they've faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the stakes have never been higher. So it stung when Shattenrkirk's loose coverage on Pittsburgh forward Scott Wilson allowed Wilson to send Bonino in on a partial breakaway for the winning goal with 7:24 remaining in the Penguins' 3-2 victory in Game 1.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Bonino pots go-ahead goal off rush

"It kind of ticked me off even more that it was him because he's someone who I have to see later on in the summer," Shattenkirk said. "So I have to hear about that."

Bonino said he took no additional pleasure from scoring at Shattenkirk's expense, but he acknowledged the goal eventually will come up in their conversations.

"It's a weird feeling playing against someone you're that close with," Bonino said. "I'm sure we'll talk about it after the series. Even though he's on the [Capitals], it's never good seeing your buddies feeling like that. But if there's ever a circumstance where it's OK, I think this is it."

Shattenkirk and Bonino agreed to cut off communication until after the series, which might be a good thing.

Bonino is probably Public Enemy No. 3 among Capitals fans (behind Penguins teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) after cementing his reputation as a clutch postseason player at Washington's expense by scoring the series-clinching overtime goal in Game 6 of the second round last season. Bonino had five points (two goals, three assists) in that series and 18 points in the playoffs (four goals, 14 assists) during Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup last season.

He and Shattenkirk nearly faced off in the Stanley Cup Final, which Bonino said "would have brought [this] to a whole other level." But Shattenkirk fell two wins short of getting there when his St. Louis Blues lost to the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Final.

After being eliminated, Shattenkirk rooted for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final and couldn't have been happier for Bonino when he scored the winning goal in Game 1 against the Sharks.

But watching Bonino skate around with the Stanley Cup made Shattenkirk want to experience it more himself. Shattenkirk made sure to stay away when Bonino had his day with the Cup in Connecticut and ate pasta out of its bowl with his grandparents -- "No day with the Cup for me" -- but witnessed from afar the spoils of winning hockey's ultimate prize.

"To see him go through that summer and all the cool things that are associated with winning a Stanley Cup, it does make you want it more when it's someone who you know and someone you're close to," Shattenkirk said. "We actually were together about a week or 10 days after and it was still very raw for him. It's a little awkward for me to be in that situation, but at the same time it really did fire me up and want me to experience that same sort of elation and joy that he had."

If things had gone differently at the NHL Trade Deadline, Shattenkirk and Bonino might be facing the Capitals together in this series. Before the Capitals acquired Shattenkirk from the Blues on Feb. 27, there was talk of a bidding war for his services that also involved the Penguins and New York Rangers.

"It seemed like at any given moment I could go to any one of those teams," Shattenkirk said. "To be honest, Washington was the last team I expected to be wearing the jersey for."

Shattenkirk said he's happy with how that has worked out and is particularly excited about this series. The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy with 118 points and the Penguins finished second in the League standings with 111 points.

Whichever team prevails will be the Stanley Cup favorite going forward.

"It's great that we're facing Pittsburgh because it's kind of what I wanted when I got here was to be able to be a part of a great rivalry and one that I remember watching last year in the playoffs," Shattenkirk said. "I think it's going to be a great memory for me as a hockey player."

And who knows? Shattenkirk and Bonino might get to be NHL teammates anyway. Each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

That's something for them to think about this summer. There's business to attend to now, with each standing in the other's way.

"I think it was inevitable we'd meet eventually," Bonino said. "You know, it being the Pens' biggest rival that makes it a little bit interesting. We're going to just both play our game and then just talk about it after."

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