Capitals force Game 7 vs. Lightning with all-around effort

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The Washington Capitals needed the best version of themselves to force a deciding game in the Eastern Conference Final, and that’s exactly what they got at home on Monday.

Hockey fans will be treated to a Game 7 (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to determine who will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, which will begin Monday, May 28.

And if that game is half as good as Game 6 was, a treat is exactly what fans will get.

Yes, Game 6 between the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning might have been the most exciting game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far — not bad for a 3-0 final score.

The scoreline was far from indicative of what happened on the ice. Washington was desperate, but not reckless. Calm and composed, they controlled much of the game and were finally rewarded in the second period via T.J. Oshie‘s power-play marker from the slot — Oshie’s first of two in the game as he added an empty-netter to seal the win late in the third.

The Capitals probably should have won by more, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was in the zone for most of the night.

Down 3-2 coming into Monday, and losers of three straight after taking a 2-0 series lead, the Capitals needed a hero to avoid another humiliating exit from the playoffs.

[PHT’s Three Stars: Holtby, Smith-Pelly help Capitals force Game 7]

Oshie stepped up, for sure.

Braden Holtby looked determined, evidenced by his 24-save shutout with the stakes never higher.

And while Alex Ovechkin looked like a man-possessed in early on — finishing with five shots on goal, one of three Capitals players to do so — it was Devante Smith-Pelly who really shined.

Smith-Pelly put on a physical masterclass early — finishing the game with five hits, including the massacre above.

Then, Smith-Pelly helped the Caps out on the scoresheet.

Chandler Stephenson won a race to beat out the icing call. The puck made its way around the back of Tampa’s net, and Jay Beagle pushed it back to Stephenson, whose backhand pass from behind Vasilevskiy found a streaking Smith-Pelly for a 2-0 lead.

And man, did that goal mean something to DSP. Watch the celly:

It was a heroic effort from Smith-Pelly, Oshie and Holtby, and they’ll need one more before they can truly say they’ve exorcised their playoff demons.

They’ll have 48 hours from now to figure out their course of attack for Game 7, and Tampa will have the same amount of time to pick themselves back up again after the beating they took in the game.

Bring on Game 7, we’re all ready.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Super Bowl edition

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Players of the Night:

Artturi Lehkonen, Montreal Canadiens: The last time Lehkonen lit the lamp was on Oct. 30 of last year, a 24-game drought heading into Sunday’s matinee with the Ottawa Senators. For a guy who had 18 goals last season, having just two in 36 games was a disappointment. Having four in 36 is still not great, but perhaps this will elevate Lehkonen out of his funk.

Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights: Smith pulled Vegas back to even on two occasions in Sunday’s win against the Washington Capitals and continued a nice trend with four goals in four games.

Highlights of the Night:

What a save:

Chandler Stephenson three goals in his past three games. This is the prettiest:

Factoids of the Night: 

Flower Power:

Barry Trotz trotting up all-time games coached list:

Scores:

Golden Knights 4, Capitals 3

Canadiens 4, Senators 1

Sharks 3, Hurricanes 1

Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone. Who ya got?


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Rookies get all the goals

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Players of the Night:

Travis Dermott and Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Dermott and Holl scored their first NHL goals on Wednesday, Dermott in his ninth NHL game and Holl in his first. Dermott assisted on Holl’s goal, because of course he did.

Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals: Stephenson scored his third and fourth career NHL goals to help drag the Capitals back from an early first-period 2-0 deficit. His goals began a run of five straight for the Caps, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones sure could have used some run support on Wednesday. He made 43 of 44 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Someone owes the man a dinner.

Highlights of the Night:

Nice pass from Wayne Simmonds. Nice finish from Nolan Patrick.

Geez, Louise, Tomas Tatar.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 0

Capitals 5, Flyers 3

Red Wings 2, Sharks 1 (SO)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Chandler Stephenson scores twice in Caps 5-3 win over Flyers

Coming into Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals had lost three of their last four games.

In a different vein, the Philadelphia Flyers were, well, flying.

Winners of nine of their past 11, they were heading into the nation’s capital against a team without a win in three straight at Capital One Arena.

None of the preambles mattered, however, as the Caps snapped their skid at home in a 5-3 win, scoring five unanswered and battling back from a 2-0 first-period deficit to increase their Metropolitan Division lead to six points over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Washington became the fourth team in the NHL to reach 30 wins behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets.

Philly got off to a quick start, with the second pick in the 2017 NHL Draft opened the scoring.

Nolan Patrick took a nice feed from Wayne Simmonds pulled the puck to his backhand and potted it up and over Braden Holby for a 1-0 lead 1:18 into the first period.

The Flyers doubled their lead before the eight-minute mark.

A nice rush from Sean Couturier resulted saved shot, but the rebound found its way to the stick of Travis Konecny, who buried his 11th of the season with Holtby down and out after getting knocked over by his own defender.

The Caps needed 47 seconds to erase the lead in the second period.

Rookie Chandler Stephensen stepped up in a big way, scoring both of the goals.

Stephenson cleaned up some garbage that Michal Neuvirth couldn’t manage in front for the first goal at 2:14.

Stephenson’s second came on the heels of a beautiful 150-foot pass by Madison Bowey to send the former in alone on Neuvirth.

Stephenson made no mistake, tying the game 2-2 at 3:01.

The Caps took their first lead of the night before periods’ end.

Andre Burakovsky got his stick on Lars Eller‘s centering pass, beating Neuvirth for a third time in the second frame to give the Caps a 3-2 lead.

T.J. Oshie made it 4-2 early in the third period and Washington’s fifth unanswered goal by Devante Smith-Pelly meant the end of Neuvirth’s night after allowing five goals on 20 shots.

Jakub Voracek hit double digits with his 10th of the season late.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck