The Capitals finally got over the hump Monday night, as Evgeny Kuznetsov buried an overtime victor in Game 6 of Washington's second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Penguins to lift his team to its first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 1998. It's a recipe that helped them win Game 5 in Nashville, a 6-2 victory on Saturday, and one they will need again Thursday. Ovechkin has been the heart and soul of the Capitals this whole season and his entire career for that matter, and it showed in this series.
Wait, about the Penguins being a dragon or spring chickens... maybe they were more like Washington's Bowser? Washington will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals for the right to play for the Stanley Cup.
"It's pretty emotional", Kuznetsov said after his seventh goal of the playoffs 5:27 into overtime pushed the Capitals into the NHL's final four for just the third time in franchise history.
"Just empty, I guess, would be a good word", Murray told NHL.com of how he felt.
One the Capitals believe they're finally ready to pass.
Only this time they didn't crumble. Like the fact that so many young players in the Game 6 lineup - which was missing the injured Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky, and the suspended Tom Wilson - had never been a part of this rivalry's lowest moments.
"We knew it was going to be a tight series", Crosby said. "We have to stick together". Lars Eller will take Backstrom's spot on the second line. Washington had to stop Pittsburgh's potent power play if they wanted to have a great shot at winning this series and that's exactly what they did.
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"Finally. we move forward", said Ovechkin, who will be making his first conference finals appearance.
"I don't want to lie, it tastes a little bit better (beating the Penguins)", Kuznetsov said.
This has been the mindset of a Capitals team that showed more fortitude than it had in previous postseasons. "It was an exciting time and an exciting moment, but you start to come off it, though".
"You look at the last couple of games, it's a one-shot difference", Crosby said. That this team is different.
That last step, however, has always been tricky.
There will be a Game 7 in the Western Conference Second Round between the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. This time, a Game 7 wasn't even necessary. "It's nearly embarrassing that it's taken this long for us to get past it". "It's an unbelievable team".
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan lauded Murray despite the loss.
The Capitals' $7.8 million man proved his worth this season as Ovechkin's emerging co-star, and has become one of the more colorful personalities in the National Hockey League. But that doesn't make us a Stanley Cup champ. It's a good feeling getting by the Penguins because there's a lot of skeletons in the closet. In this series, Ovechkin scored three goals in the six games and had the primary assist on the series-clinching goal by Kuznetsov.