Fleury, Penguins eliminate Capitals in Game 7
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[May 11, 2017]
WASHINGTON -- Pushed to the
brink by the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins responded
like the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist scored goals, Marc-Andre Fleury made
29 saves, and the Penguins defeated the Capitals 2-0 in Game 7 of
their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Wednesday.
The Penguins, who continued their postseason mastery of the
Capitals, will face the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference
"They just always find a way to respond the right way to the
challenges of adversities this league throws at us and they did it
again tonight," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of his team.
"I think these guys are at their best when the stakes are high. That
might have been the best game we've played in the playoffs to this
Rust made it 1-0 midway through the second period, and Hornqvist
doubled the lead early in the third.
Pittsburgh eliminated the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals in the
conference semifinals for the second season in a row -- exactly one
year apart. The Penguins have won nine of 10 postseason series
between the teams. During that time, Pittsburgh is 4-0 in Game 7s.
The Penguins are now 3-0 vs. the Capitals in series played during
the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin era. The previous two times the
Penguins eliminated the Capitals, they went on to win the Stanley
After outscoring the Penguins 9-4 in Games 5 and 6 to erase the
Penguins' 3-1 series lead, Washington was unable to beat Fleury, who
picked up his ninth career postseason shutout.
"We're not in this position if he doesn't play the way he has,"
Crosby said. "He was unbelievable again tonight."
Braden Holtby stopped 26 shots for Washington, which fell short in
its attempt to come back from down 3-1 in the series. The Capitals
haven't made to the conference finals since the 1997-98.
"Big moments, your big players have to play big and regrettably, I
don't think we did tonight," said Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, who
had four goals and eight assists in the playoffs.
This particular group may have had its last chance. Among
Washington's unrestricted free agents are Oshie, who tied for the
team lead with 33 goals in the regular season, Justin Williams and
Pittsburgh improved to 6-0 in road Game 7s while Washington fell to
3-8 when hosting.
"We didn't lose the series tonight," Washington center Nicklas
Backstrom said. "We lost it in the first three games, four games."
The Capitals dominated the opening minutes of the first period, but
"We expected them to come out hard, but we knew we had to be a
little more aggressive tonight than we were in the last couple of
games," Crosby said. "I think we got through that first little wave
there and got to our game."
Both teams had solid chances in the first period. Evgeni Malkin was
open in the slot, but Holtby got a piece of his shot. Then, on a
Washington power play, Kevin Shattenkirk's shot was deflected off
the post by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Later in the period, Daniel Winnik
broke in alone on Fleury but fired wide.
"(Pittsburgh) did a much better job on their (defensive zone) exits.
They did a few things in terms of their puck management," Capitals
coach Barry Trotz said. "We had some good looks early, we didn't
[to top of second column]
Penguins center Sidney
Crosby (87) ties his skate on the ice prior to game seven of the
second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington
Capitals at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY
At 6:40 of the second period, Fleury stoned Lars
Eller on a rebound in front.
The Penguins scored the game's first goal at 8:49 of the period.
Crosby fed Jake Guentzel to the right of Holtby, and Guentzel
patiently held the puck until Rust broke into the slot, took a feed
from Guentzel and beat Holtby.
Rust has eight goals and one assist in 12 career playoff elimination
games, including three goals in two Game 7s.
With 3:53 left in the period, Fleury made arguably his best and most
important save of the game to preserve the lead. He was able to
deflect an Ovechkin blast from the slot with the shaft of his stick
"I don't think the urgency was there (tonight)," Ovechkin said after
Ovechkin played 18 minutes, collecting four shots on goal and four
hits, but was on the ice for both goals against.
Asked about Ovechkin's performance in Game 7, Trotz said,
"Emotionally right now, I don't want to answer that question. We win
and lose as a team. That's probably my best answer right now."
Hornqvist made it 2-0 at 4:14 of the third period. After a
Washington clearing attempt failed, defenseman Justin Schultz passed
to Hornqvist, who flipped a backhander from the slot that deflected
off Holtby's glove, then the crossbar and in.
"Once they got their second goal, I thought they kind locked it
down," Trotz said. "They got a lot of energy on their bench and it
sort of got us on our heels."
The Penguins outshot Washington 11-6 in the third period.
NOTES: With his assist, C Jake Guentzel set a Penguins record for
playoff points by a rookie with 14 (nine goals, five assists). ...
Penguins G Matt Murray dressed for the first time since sustaining a
lower-body injury in warmups before Game 1 versus the Columbus Blue
Jackets. ... Pittsburgh D Trevor Daley (lower-body injury) missed
his second straight game. F Carl Hagelin (lower-body) and F Tom
Kuhnhackl were scratched, replaced in the lineup by F Scott Wilson
and F Carter Rowney, respectively. ... Capitals F Justin Williams
(7-1) took his first loss in a Game 7. ... Washington fell to 4-11
overall in Game 7s. ... In Game 7s, the team that scores first is
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