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|The most hyped and highly anticipated series in recent memory came to an end Wednesday night in Washington as the Pittsburgh Penguins landed an overpowering knockout punch, ending the Washington Capitals season for the seventh time in playoff history, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season. |
The Penguins saved their best performance of the postseason for the decisive Game 7. Pittsburgh completely dominated the play and ran out to a 5-0 lead halfway through the game. The Penguins were in cruise control for the remainder of the contest and Washington still couldn’t muster a sustained attack.
In the battle of the superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin got the better of Alex Ovechkin and co. Crosby put on an outstanding performance with two power-play goals and an assist for a three-point night in his first-ever Game 7.
Even though this series didn’t need any more storylines, Sergei Gonchar put together a gutsy performance for Pittsburgh just five days after suffering a painful, and some thought season-ending, injury.
The circus has come and gone and the Penguins are still standing.
|WHAT HAPPENED |
|(AP) -For a guy who supposedly shies from the limelight, Sidney Crosby was as good as could be in the first Game 7 of his career. |
The rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins were pretty close to perfect, too.
Crosby scored twice to raise his NHL-leading playoff goal total to 12, his teammates shut down his big rival, Alex Ovechkin, most of the night, and the Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the second consecutive season.
|SHOT OF THE NIGHT |
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin shake hands following the competitive seven-game series
(photo by Getty)
|What Worked Well: Breaking Varlamov |
Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov has been phenomenal between the pipes for Washington this postseason. He has consistently frustrated the Penguins by smothering great scoring chances all series. But Pittsburgh broke through with four goals in the first 22 minutes of the game and ended the rookie goaltender’s night early. Washington never recovered from the early letdown.
What Could Have Gone Better: Nothing
It’s kind of hard to find any negatives from a Game 7 when the Penguins were completely dominant. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 5-0 lead halfway through the game and cruised to a comfortable 6-2 victory to eliminate the Washington Capitals.
|Big time players have to come through for their team on a big stage. Sidney Crosby took care of business for the Penguins, scoring two power-play goals and adding an assist for a three-point night to help Pittsburgh advance to its second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Crosby was the best player on the ice in one of the biggest games of his career. He always seems to find a way to elevate his play when his team needs it the most. |
HONORABLE MENTION: Sergei Gonchar ignored an injury and suited up for the Penguins in their most critical game of the season. He assisted on the team’s first goal and logged 15-plus minutes of ice time.
|SCORING SYNOPSIS |
|The Penguins buried a power-play goal 13 minutes into the first period to gain an early lead. Sergei Gonchar ripped a shot-pass towards the Washington goal from the midpoint. The puck deflected to the left of the net where Sidney Crosby kicked it to his stick and lifted a shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 1, Washington 0. |
Pittsburgh struck again just eight seconds after its first goal to take a two-score lead – the second fastest goals scored in team postseason history. Ruslan Fedotenko stole the puck above the far circle and made a cross-ice pass to Craig Adams, who was streaking down the slot. Adams had Maxime Talbot on a two-on-one but opted to send a shot through Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov’s five-hole for his first career postseason tally. Pittsburgh 2, Washington 0.
Pittsburgh added to its lead just 32 seconds into the second period. Bill Guerin started the play and ended it with a goal. In his own zone he collected the puck and sprang Crosby up the ice. Crosby entered the zone and pulled up at the far circle. Chris Kunitz drove to the net, drawing in the Washington defense. Crosby hit Guerin, the trailer on the play. Guerin one-timed a shot far side for the score. Pittsburgh 3, Washington 0.
The Penguins connected for their fourth goal just two minutes into the second frame. Evgeni Malkin had the puck at the near wall in the neutral zone. He flung a cross-ice pass to Kris Letang. The young blueliner laid into a slap shot that streaked over the left shoulder of Varlamov. The Capitals pulled the rookie netminder at that point. Pittsburgh 4, Washington 0.
New goaltender, same result. The Penguins upped their lead to 5-0 halfway through the second period. Miroslav Satan had the puck below the near goal line. His centering pass was drilled into the net by Jordan Staal from atop the crease. Pittsburgh 5, Washington 0.
The Capitals broke Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout bid with a score towards the end of the second period. Fleury tried to the play the puck behind the net. However, Alex Ovechkin intercepted his attempted pass and slid a wraparound shot across the goal line. Pittsburgh 5, Washington 1.
Crosby drew a four-minute double-minor high sticking penalty on Brooks Laich in the third period. The Capitals used Ovechkin on their penalty killing unit and it backfired. Ovechkin lost control of the puck in the Penguins zone. Crosby collected the puck and had a breakaway on net. Crosby sent a shot through Jose Theodore’s five-hole for his second goal of the game. Pittsburgh 6, Washington 1.
Washington tallied its second score of the game six minutes into the third period. Tomas Fleischmann drove the puck hard to the Penguins net. His shot was stopped but Laich lifted a backhand shot into the cage. Pittsburgh 6, Washington 2.
|INTRIGUING NOTABLES |
|Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, five days after suffering an ugly knee-on-knee hit from Alex Ovechkin, returned to the lineup for Pittsburgh. Gonchar played through the pain and gave a gutsy performance for his team. The Penguins scratched defenseman Alex Goligoski and forwards Eric Godard, Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora. |
Early in the first period, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made a spectacular save on Ovechkin to keep the game scoreless. Ovechkin sneaked behind the Pittsburgh defense and had a breakaway on goal. Fleury snapped out his glove to catch the puck. If Ovechkin scores there it may be a different game.
Super Star lines:
Sidney Crosby: 2G, 1A, +1, 18:59 minutes, 3 shots
Alex Ovechkin: 1G, -1, 22:29 minutes, 3 shots, 5 hits
Evgeni Malkin: 2A, 21:53 minutes, 6 shots
Alexander Semin: -2, 20:27 minutes, 2 shots
|GAME NOTES |
|> Pittsburgh won its second-round series against Washington, 4-3, to advance to its second straight Eastern Conference Finals. |
> The Penguins are 4-3 on the road in the postseason.
> Head coach Dan Bylsma has a career postseason record of 8-5.
> Scoring Summary:
PIT, S.Crosby PP (11), 12:36 1st period: Penguins 1, Capitals 0
PIT, C.Adams (1), 12:44 1st period: Penguins 2, Capitals 0
PIT, B.Guerin (5), 0:28 2nd period: Penguins 3, Capitals 0
PIT, K.Letang (3), 2:12 2nd period: Penguins 4, Capitals 0
PIT, J.Staal (2), 11:37 2nd period: Penguins 5, Capitals 0
WSH, A.Ovechkin (11), 18:09 2nd period: Penguins 5, Capitals 1
PIT, S.Crosby PP (12), 2:02 3rd period: Penguins 6, Capitals 1
WSH, B.Laich (3), 6:36 3rd period: Penguins 6, Capitals 2
> Pittsburgh scored its first two goals just eight seconds apart – the second fastest mark in the franchise’s postseason history. The fastest occurred on April 13, 1980, vs. Boston when Ron Stackhouse and Rick Kehoe scored seven seconds apart.
> Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s Art Ross champion, notched two assists and has 19 points in the postseason (6G-13A).
> Sidney Crosby recorded two power-play goals and an assist and has 21 total postseason points (12G-9A). Crosby has 15 points (10G-5A) in his last eight games and has a point in 11 of 13 playoff games.
> Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves in the deciding contest.
> Craig Adams scored his first career postseason goal.
> Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney was in Mario Lemieux’s suite to watch the game.
|THREE STARS ||QUOTE OF THE NIGHT |
| || |
|1. S.Crosby, PIT |
2. R.Fedotenko, PIT
3. M.Fleury, PIT
|I’ve never around a series with the drama and the hype and |
the skill. This was a great series. I’m sure the people at
the league are happy. It couldn’t have gone any better
for the fans.
- Bill Guerin