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20 May 2017, 02:46 | Charlene Valdez
The Capitals are as close as they've been to their first appearance in the conference finals in 19 years after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit by sprinting by Pittsburgh in the third period at home in Game 5 and then delivering a masterful performance 48 hours later in a city that's often been a burial ground for once-promising seasons.
Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20), of Denmark, battles for the puck with Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov (47), of Russian Federation, during the second period of Game 5 in an NHL Stanley Cup hockey first-round playoff series, Friday, April 21, 2017, in Washington. The Penguins finished with just 18 over the course of the game, a pair of late goals by Malkin and budding rookie star Jake Guentzel making the final score a bit more respectable but no less decisive.
While much has been made of the Capitals losing five of 12 series when leading 3-1, the Penguins have lost three series after leading 3-1, most recently in 2014 against the Rangers. Let's face it, those shots are more likely to get blocked before they ever reach Fleury than they are to get on net. That's not insignificant, but it's nothing next to the TV audience (4.330 million viewers and a 2.38 household rating). And if you were looking for anything else positive from Crosby's game, then perhaps it would be his ice time: He rolled out there three ticks short of 20 minutes, not missing a shift, even when Washington ran out to a 5-0 lead in the third period.
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save during the first period of Game 6 in an NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal hockey game against the Washington Capitals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 8, 2017.
After the game, Crosby said he was evaluated for a concussion, saying, "Yep. We just focus on Game 6 right now".
The biggest change you can see is the reuniting of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel, otherwise known as the HBK line. "That third period in Game 5, I think, kind of freed us up a little, and we've been getting momentum and confidence from that to play our game and to trust our ability". Anyone who watched Crosby go headfirst into the boards late in the first period of Game 6 against the Washington Capitals had a hard time understanding how the concussion spotters, both at the PPG Paints Arena and in the player safety room in NY, could not have immediately ordered him off the Penguins' bench and off the ice for further observation.
So as you're reading the policy, and it's clear Crosby was "slow to get up", and it takes just one of the signs to require removal from a game, you have to wonder why he kept playing. One could argue the Capitals have outplayed the Penguins in this series anyway and it's finally starting to show in the scoreboard.
The Capitals are battling history and bad omens. What they were doing wasn't working.
He instead was given a clean bill of health by team doctors and returned to the lineup Saturday in time for Game 5, thus becoming exposed to the potential "nightmare scenario" that may have presented itself Monday. Over the past two games, Fleury has allowed nine goals and has just an 84.4 save percentage. "But you have to give Washington credit too".
The Penguins will start by shaking the lines up for Game 7.
"We were disappointed after that effort", says Niskanen.
Game 7 is Wednesday night at Anaheim, with the victor advancing to face the Nashville Predators in the conference finals. These are the games in which they live to play.
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