The NHL is not trying to reconcile these two contradictions, instead covering its own behind in saying that Crosby continuing to play was not its fault.
Up until Game 5, no team in the Stanley Cup playoffs was playing better than Pittsburgh. "Now we have to focus on the second game, not think about the Game 7". The team that scored a season-high 318 goals managed three over the final three games and lost 2-1 in Game 7 at home.
On Jan. 12 at Canadian Tire Centre, Mike Condon made 29 saves and Bobby Ryan, Tom Pyatt, Hoffman and Stone scored against Murray in a 4-1 win over the Penguins, whose only response came from Conor Sheary. "Even in the Toronto series, and then a couple games in this series, mentally we weren't able to stay focused".
The protocol states that a player can be removed from play by the spotter after he is "slow to get up" or "clutches his head" following three mechanisms of injury: a blow to the head or upper torso from another player's shoulder, the player's head making secondary contact with the ice, or if the player is punched in the head with a fist during a fight. Six, including two on the same penalty in Game 6 on Monday. That they're not burdened by the weight of the team's history of playoff flameouts, one most of the guys in red, white and blue had nothing to do with.
"I think we started out the series playing good and not getting the results we wanted", says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "That's a game we thought we probably should have had".
If you're looking for some hope, there's not much. Jaromir Jagr (whoops) and Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals have come back from 3-1, but they're still the team with the best regular-season record.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) sits on the bench with head.
Just like we all predicted.
"You are going to see their best game, their most desperate game of the series", Washington coach Barry Trotz said of the Penguins.
Backed up to the precipice against a rival that's tormented them for decades, the Capitals finally punched back. They have been ousted from the playoffs in eight of the nine times they've faced the Penguins. If Fleury has sprung a leak, the Capitals have the talent from Ovechkin down to make him pay.
Consider that the shaky goalie was once Washington's Braden Holtby, yanked after two periods of the second game. Then, crumble it up and throw it away.
This Game 7 has the potential to have that kind of profound effect. Sullivan also moved rookie Guentzel alongside Malkin and put Conor Sheary with Crosby.
Or... the Caps could lean on leadership from Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Williams, AKA Mr. That was a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the Cup Final as, you guessed it, Williams sealed it with an empty-netter. Which team will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals? At this point, anything could happen. The Pens have won all of them.
Game 7 is without question the most important game in Capitals history. The Penguins are beat up, they're exhausted (they have played more games in the last 365 days than any other team still playing in the playoffs) and as cliché as it is, it's awfully hard to repeat as Stanley Cup Champs.
NOTES: Pittsburgh D Trevor Daley, who left Game 5 in the third period, did not play because of a lower-body injury.
Fine. Crosby said he was checked by a doctor between the first and second periods. Youre not going to win every one. If he hits the ice or another player, he qualifies for removal; under the current policy, the boards do not qualify a player for head injury watch.
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