History was made on Friday in Pittsburgh. With another 2nd round Stanley Cup Playoff matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, the rivalry was tenser than ever as 3 years worth of emotions and pain had been built up between these two for years, but now it was time to fight it out again for another year. For the past 2 seasons the Penguins have had the upper hand, even winning the Stanley Cup for 2 straight seasons, also eliminating the Capitals in the 2nd round. The Caps have never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs in the “Ovechkin” Era, the Capitals’ top player and captain since 2004, but this time, history was made…
With a scoreless 1st period, Braden Holtby was the show as he made numerous point-blank saves and stopped shot after shot, standing tall. Things began to pick up in the 2nd period with some offense. With Australian rookie, Nathan Walker, skating into the zone, he circled the net and centered it to Alex Chiasson where he one-timed a shot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray for a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later, the Penguins would take advantage of a face-off win from Sidney Crosby where Kris Letang would one-time one in past Braden Holtby to tie the game at 1 a piece. That would conclude the 2nd period, but a tied second period would only lead to a great 3rd period with more goalie action ahead.
Things began heating up as players were slamming other players into the boards for puck possessions and heavy collisions and open ice hits, both teams clearly had different mentalities with the Pens playing to avoid elimination and the Caps playing to finally keep their playoffs lives going forward, but they both were hungry for a win.
The 3rd period would conclude without any scoring so the game would head off to sudden death overtime, the most stressful part of any playoff hockey game, but the next goal would be the biggest of the playoffs; one would end a team’s playoff success drought and the other would keep another team alive to fight another day.
The Penguins would come close with a shot from Tom Kühnhackl that rang off the iron and bounced out of the zone, but the next play, minutes later, would remain in the history books forever. As Sidney Crosby skated into the offensive zone, Alex Ovechkin stripped him of the puck and flicked it up center ice up to Evgeny Kuznetsov who skated off onto a breakaway where he split the legs open of Matt Murray and slid it into the net and ended the game; the Washington Capitals had finally exercised their demons and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins and are finally moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
They will be taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, starting Friday in Tampa Bay. The Lightning won the season series 2-1 and outscored the Capitals 9 to 8, so both of their offenses seem fairly balanced, but the Lightning’s trade deadline acquisitions in J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh and the top duo of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos make them to be the favorite in this match up, but Washington will for sure put up a fight, plus will be fully energized and full of confidence, so it will be a close match up, but the prediction: Tampa Bay in 7 games.
Despite anything that happens, it was still a moment that will go into the history books for Washington!
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