The Washington Capitals were 20 minutes away from elimination in Game 5 of their second-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Two days later, the Capitals have forced a Game 7 against their rivals, on home ice back in Washington, too.
The Capitals’ disappointing playoff history has been a favorite narrative in this series, especially given the opponent, but now they have a chance to exorcise past memories with a comeback from a three-games-to-one deficit.
They were dominant against an otherwise listless Penguins team on Monday, leaving Pittsburgh with a 5-2 victory to even the series. Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC sports app). Make sure to plan your schedules accordingly.
It’s bad when a team like the Penguins, even though they have been outshot by a large margin already in this series, can only manufacture nine shots — nine shots! — on Braden Holtby through 40 minutes of play.
T.J. Oshie opened the scoring with a power play blast in the first period, and Andre Burakovsky — he has come alive after slumping through a large portion of the playoffs prior to Saturday’s Game 5 — found room on the short-side against Marc-Andre Fleury to increase the lead. But the dagger came just 16 seconds into the third period, as Nicklas Backstrom put Washington up by three.
It was 5-0 for Washington a few minutes later.
Fleury, who had been rock solid through four games in this series and these playoffs in general, has now given up eight goals in his last four periods. Although, you can’t pin Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles on the goalie.
For the Penguins, there are a few concerns heading into the deciding contest. Generating more offense would be a start, although that’s difficult to do with a defense that is struggling, particularly without Kris Letang or Trevor Daley in the lineup.
There should also be concern for Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins captain took a stick to the face early in the first period, stayed in the game, and then later went crashing dangerously head-first into the boards. Despite struggling back to his skates, Crosby remained on the ice for that shift and remained in the game, which raised plenty of eyebrows, given his concussion history that includes just such an injury suffered exactly one week ago on a cross check to the head.
An anxious few minutes for the Capitals, too. Evgeny Kuznetsov was hurt on an open-ice collision a minute into the third period. He briefly went down the tunnel but soon re-appeared on the bench.