The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals playing in the Eastern Conference Second Round is becoming a rite of spring. April showers bring May flowers and Sidney Crosby and the Penguins face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals somewhere in the middle of that.
This will be third season in a row that the Penguins and Capitals play each other in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the fourth time since Crosby and Ovechkin entered the NHL together at the start of the 2005-06 season. The Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup after winning each of those first three series (2009, 2016, 2017).
[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Capitals series coverage]
Now they're trying to become the first team to win the Cup in three consecutive seasons since the New York Islanders won four straight titles from 1980-83.
The Capitals are seeking to advance beyond the second round for the first time since they made their lone Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998.
The Penguins (against the Philadelphia Flyers) and Capitals (against the Columbus Blue Jackets) each won their first-round series in six games, setting up another second-round rematch.
"We knew chances were you'd have to go through them at some point," Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said.
Game 1 is at Washington on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). Here's a review of the Penguins and Capitals' past three playoff series:
2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals
After the Capitals' 3-2 win in Game 1, Ovechkin and Crosby put on a show in Game 2 with each scoring three goals and the Capitals winning 4-3. The turning point of the series came in Game 3 in Pittsburgh.
The game went into overtime after Nicklas Backstrom's tying goal with 1:50 left in the third period, putting the Capitals in position to take a 3-0 series lead, but Kris Letang scored 11:23 into OT to give the Penguins a 3-2 win. The Penguins then got first-period goals from Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko on their way to a 5-3 win in Game 4.
In Game 5, the Capitals rallied to set up overtime again on Ovechkin's goal with 4:08 left in the third, but the Penguins won 4-3 on Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal 3:28 into sudden death. The Capitals stayed alive in Game 6 in Pittsburgh with Dave Steckel scoring 6:22 into overtime for a 5-4 win.
Video: 2009 Round 2, Game 5: Malkin puts Caps on the brink
After goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Ovechkin on a breakaway 3:00 into Game 7, the Penguins jumped out to a 5-0 lead on their way to a 6-2 victory. Crosby had two goals and an assist to finish the series with 13 points (eight goals, five assists). Ovechkin had 14 points (eight goals, six assists).
2016 Eastern Conference Second Round
Five of the six games were decided by one goal, including three that went to overtime. As Presidents' Trophy winners, the Capitals came in as the favorites and got a hat trick from T.J. Oshie, including the winner 9:33 into overtime, in a 4-3 victory in Game 1.
The Penguins evened the series with a 2-1 win in Game 2 with former Capitals forward Eric Fehr scoring the winning goal with 4:28 left in the third period. The Penguins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 3 and hung on for a 3-2 win with rookie goaltender Matt Murray making 47 saves. Despite being without Letang in Game 4 because of a suspension, the Penguins took a 3-1 series lead with a 3-2 win on Patric Hornqvist's goal 2:34 into overtime.
Video: Hornqvist wins Game 4 for Pens in OT
After Holtby made 30 saves to help the Capitals stay alive with a 3-1 win in Game 5, the Penguins led 3-0 by 7:38 into the second period of Game 6. The Capitals battled back to tie it with John Carlson's power-play goal at 13:01 of the third before Nick Bonino scored on a rebound 6:32 into overtime to send the Penguins onto the Eastern Conference Final with a 4-3 win.
"It's a missed opportunity and another game that's the last shot," Ovechkin said. "I'm proud of my team, proud of my teammates. I'm proud of this group no matter what happened, but, again, we lost in the second round, so it [stinks]."
2017 Eastern Conference Second Round
The Capitals again entered the series as Presidents' Trophy winners, and the Penguins again took a 3-1 series lead.
Pittsburgh won the first two games in Washington, prevailing 3-2 in Game 1 on Bonino's goal with 7:24 left in the third period, and defeating the Capitals 6-2 in Game 2 with Phil Kessel and rookie Jake Guentzel each getting two goals and an assist.
After Crosby sustained a concussion on a cross-check from defenseman Matt Niskanen 5:24 into Game 3, the Capitals pulled out a 3-2 win on Kevin Shattenkirk's power-play goal 3:13 into overtime. Without Crosby in Game 4, the Penguins won 3-2 with Fleury making 36 saves.
Video: Schultz's PPG lifts Penguins past Capitals in Game 4
Facing elimination and trailing 2-1 after two periods of Game 5, the Capitals scored three times in the opening 7:47 of the third period and won 4-2 despite Crosby's return. The Capitals appeared to have momentum on their side after evening the series with a 5-2 win in Game 6 in Pittsburgh, but the Penguins rebounded in Game 7 with Bryan Rust and Hornqvist scoring and Fleury making 29 saves in a 2-0 win at Washington.
"It was a long series against a good team," Fleury said. "They came hard at us till the end, and we're proud of the way we played tonight, and the way we handled the pressure and these guys over the series."
Complete Coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Capitals vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Penguins
Predators vs. Jets
Golden Knights vs. Sharks