The Capitals are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998. They beat the Penguins in Game 6 of their conference semifinal on Monday night, 2-1 in overtime.
They did it without star center Nicklas Backstrom, who sat out with a left hand injury. Washington’s other star center, Evgeny Kuznetsov, scored on a breakaway in overtime to vanquish the two-time defensing Stanley Cup champions.
Washington had lost nine of 10 playoff series against the Penguins’ all-time, including two in the last two years and three in the last nine. This goal vanquished a lot of demons, in addition to putting the Capitals against the Lightning in a great conference final.
Here was a live blog of the game:
The Penguins and Capitals are playing Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal on Monday in Pittsburgh. The Capitals lead the series, three games to two, and would eliminate the Penguins with a road win in this one. You can stream the game live on NBC Sports, or watch it on the TV network that goes by the same name. Updates follow:
15:34: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
Washington’s John Carlson just had the best chance of the overtime so far, but Matt Murray stopped him from the slot. Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl got post on a long-range shot earlier in the period.
0:00: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
We’ll have overtime. Jakub Vrana almost scored a goal in the last 10 seconds, but he couldn’t quite corral the puck. The suspense here is off the charts.
5:44: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
At this point, next goal almost certainly wins it.
8:05: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
Matt Murray is keeping the Penguins afloat right now. His teammates have gotten badly outplayed in the last few minutes, but the Pittsburgh goalie’s been up to every shot.
13:49: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
These teams know each other exceptionally well. They’re divisional rivals, and they’re at the end of their third long series in three years. But they’re sort of figuring each other out in the opening minutes of the third period. This is probably going to be a 2-1 game, or maybe 3-1 if there’s an empty-netter involved.
0:00: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
This one feels like a classic. Both Matt Murray and Braden Holtby made sparkling saves in the last couple minutes of the second period. The Capitals appeared to have the Penguins on the ropes for a few minutes in the middle of the frame, but on the whole, it’d be hard for this game to have been more evenly played through 40 minutes. Buckle up.
4:28: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
The home team finally has some pep in its stuff. The Kris Letang goal that tied the game came after the Penguins’ first few minutes of sustained pressure all night. Washington’s since pushed back, but it looks like they’re settling in for a tight last 25 minutes or so.
Here was that Letang marker:
SNIPE!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 8, 2018
Letang’s goal gives him points in three straight home games (1G-2A). pic.twitter.com/aGjhty8of9
8:08: Capitals 1, Penguins 1
Kris Letang just tied the game for Pittsburgh with a slapper from the center point, right off a faceoff win. That the Penguins are somehow tied right now is stunning, but they’ll take it.
8:14: Capitals 1, Penguins 0
A couple of nice Matt Murray saves are the only reason the Penguins aren’t already out of this game. Coach Mike Sullivan has juggled his lines a little bit, and maybe that’ll help. But right now, the Capitals are in a great spot.
12:28: Capitals 1, Penguins 0
This is currently a Washington puck possession clinic. The Penguins look apprehensive in a way they haven’t at any time in their Cup runs the last two seasons.
17:44: Capitals 1, Penguins 0
Washington just struck first, and it was the Capitals’ fourth line that did it. An Alex Chiasson slapper beat Matt Murray inexplicably on his short side. The primary assist came from Nathan Walker, who’s replacing the injured Nicklas Backstrom in the lineup. Walker’s the first Australian player to ever appear in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
The Penguins and Capitals were tied 0-0 after 20 minutes. The period hardly could’ve been more even. The Capitals had a 7-6 advantage in shots on goal, and the Penguins had a 17-6 edge in total attempts. Washington had eight scoring chances to Pittsburgh’s six.
The Penguins’ best scoring chance might’ve been this one for Phil Kessel:
If the Capitals can win this game without center Nicklas Backstrom, who has some sort of right hand injury, they’ll eliminate the Penguins for the first time in four playoff meetings during the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin era. They’ll also become the first major Washington professional team to make a conference final in 20 years.