N.H.L. Playoffs: Capitals Eliminate Penguins, for a Change
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s breakaway goal in overtime gave the Washington Capitals a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 on Monday night, and a berth in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 20 years.
Kuznetsov took a lead pass from Alex Ovechkin and tucked the puck underneath Matt Murray at 5 minutes 27 seconds, ending Pittsburgh’s two-year reign as Stanley Cup champion and propelling the Capitals into the N.H.L.’s final four for just the third time in franchise history.
Braden Holtby stopped 21 shots for the Capitals, who will face Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals. Alex Chiasson scored his first playoff goal in four years during a tight contest through regulation.
Kris Letang scored for the Penguins, and Murray finished with 28 saves but couldn’t close his legs fast enough to stop Kuznetsov’s forehand flick from in close as Pittsburgh’s bid at becoming the first team in 35 years to win three consecutive Cups came to an abrupt end.
Forward Tom Wilson sat for a third straight game, serving a suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese in Game 2.
The Penguins, by contrast, had been impossible to finish off since Coach Mike Sullivan took over in December 2015. Pittsburgh came in 4-0 in elimination games under Sullivan, including a 2-0 victory in Game 7 in Washington last spring.
Washington spent the series saying its forgettable playoff history littered with squandered leads and blown opportunities — particularly against the Penguins — was not a factor. That this time was different. That this team was different. Twice the Capitals rallied in the third period to stun Pittsburgh, including a four-goal outburst in Game 5 that pushed them to the brink of the Eastern Conference finals.
Forsberg had two goals and an assist, Rinne stopped 34 shots for his second shutout of the playoffs, and the Predators beat host Winnipeg to force a decisive Game 7 in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Viktor Arvidsson also scored twice, including a late empty-netter, and added an assist for the Predators. Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen each had two assists.
After the Jets’ top line combined for eight points in a 6-2 victory in Game 5 in Nashville to take a 3-2 series lead, the Predators No. 1 trio of Forsberg, Arvidsson and Johansen did the same when it mattered most.
“It’s the most fun,” Forsberg said. “You can never have more fun than playing these elimination games.”
Game 7 is Thursday at Nashville, with the winner advancing to face the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final.