Capitals top Penguins, force Game 7

Capitals top Penguins, force Game 7

The Capitals winger has earned the nickname with seven goals and seven assists in the seven Game 7s he has played in his 16-year National Hockey League career. He reunited the "HBK" line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel that worked so well during last spring's Cup run and the trio responded by generating one shot on goal.

It feels like the Pittsburgh Penguins blew their chance to close out this series, and now the Capitals are in a comfortable spot where they'll be very confident on their home ice.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) sits on the bench with head coach Mike Sullivan behind him during the third period of Game 6 in an NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal hockey game against the Washington Capitals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 8, 2017.

This is the fourth time the two teams will meet in a winner-take-all.

With nearly the entire team back from last year's Stanley Cup run, the Penguins have plenty of experience to draw on, especially when it comes to playing with their backs against the wall. Not that it bothers the Capitals.

"I felt good", Crosby said. I think our culture has grown from year one to two to three.

"I don't know if there's any hump to get over", said Trotz, who is 1-1 with the Capitals in two Game 7 opportunities in 2015. Crosby passed baseline concussion testing in time to return for Saturday's Game 5. If they want to have the chance to defend their Stanley Cup championship, they need to get back to what they do best.

"That's the one particular moment we all remember", said New Jersey Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, another one of then-coach Dan Bylsma's young assistants that night. "We're having fun now". It was especially apparent on the sequence of events that led to Andre Burakovsky's short-sided goal on Penguins goaltender?

None of it worked as Washington pushed the Penguins around. Presumably, that spotter was not deciding between pretzels and potato chips as an in-game snack when none other than Sidney Crosby, the NHL's flag-bearer, careened down the ice in the first period, clipped the side of the Capitals' net, and crashed headfirst - and hard - into the boards. "Even in the Toronto series, and then a couple games in this series, mentally we weren't able to stay focused". The decisive Game 7 will be Wednesday night in Washington (7:30 ET, NBCSN).

With a 2.49 goals-against average, Braden Holtby hasn't exactly been awful during these playoffs. "Game 7" Justin Williams, who will play his first one with Washington.

The other key takeaway here is about how important the Penguins-Capitals series is for NBC. The problem wasn't that Holtby was playing poorly, but he wasn't stealing any games for the Caps either. On his second goal, Burakovsky muscled Penguins defenseman Ron Hainsey off the puck on an odd-man rush and scored with a top-shelf wrist shot. He scored his team's only goals in a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay in the final game of the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Pittsburgh struggled to generate any early fluency and their first shot on goal didn't arrive until 12:17 of the first period, a long clear by Brian Dumoulin. The Penguins have now blown series leads of 2-0 and 3-1 and given all the momentum back to the Capitals, who have looked like a new team since dropping star Alex Ovechkin to the third line to help ignite the bottom six. The Capitals have forced the Pittsburgh Penguins into a victor take all showdown on Wednesday in Verizon.

"We're going to have to be better", Oshie said.

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