Just 16 seconds into the third, Backstrom kept the puck on a two-on-one - Washington's fifth odd-man rush - and beat Fleury for a 3-0 lead. We have to come out and have a way better effort than we did tonight. They looked exhausted, disinterested, they were flat-footed, they turned the puck over... all of the things that won them the Stanley Cup (and a Game 6 versus the Capitals a year ago) they suddenly quit doing.
Ready for playoff hockey? Alexander Burakovsky has elevated his play over the past two games. How do we explain the first four games when the Penguins were drastically outshot and still won games? "I think they're the better team right now, so hopefully they play that way". Chad Ruhwedel was forced into the lineup and played only 13:14, which forced a heavier load onto the other five defensemen.
Come Tuesday morning, Crosby would be on the ice for practice, so it's safe to assume that he did not fail any type of concussion-testing that may or may not have happened, but given the murky waters of this situation thus far and how confusing the process has been, how can we even guess what's actually going on here? "We're having fun now", said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, whose club trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the series. He did not immediately leave the ice after the play, rejoining the Penguins' power play for a defensive-zone faceoff.
If you're looking for some hope, there's not much.
The Capitals haven't been to the Eastern Conference finals in 19 years.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) sits on the bench with head.
"We're still down", said Ovechkin, who has 12 goals, 26 points in 18 career playoff games against the Penguins, including two goals, five points this series. There's no way they should be put in the position where they have to weigh the long-term health of a player between the desire to win a hockey game, particularly in the heat of the moment.
It was the latest in a long recent history of postseason disappointment for the franchise.
And let's make no mistake about it; as scrappy and opportunistic as the Penguins have been, they're also riddled by injuries. Then, crumble it up and throw it away.
And with Game 7 comes more pressure.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan tinkered with his line combinations reuniting the "HBK" line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel) that played an instrumental part in the team's Cup run last spring. One or all of Justin Williams, Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. "Game 7" in his first chance with Washington. It isn't just advancement to the conference finals against the Ottawa Senators that is on the line for these two teams.
"Since Game 3, we've had a calmness about what we're doing".
Fortunately, the Penguins are still the defending champions, and are one of the most resilient clubs in the league.
This is the fourth time the Penguins and Capitals will meet in a Game 7.
This is the 10th Game 7 in 15 playoff series during the Alex Ovechkin era. "Yup. Yeah. Pretty standard", was his response.
It's hard to win when your fans give up on you.
The NHL should know this by now, but it's create an obtuse, confusing system that allows for myriad excuses to keep players on the ice. It's fantastic it's taken this long to bring up this fact, but it's so well-known, so much part of the fabric, that it's just assumed as common knowledge: Alex Ovechkin's Capitals have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
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