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Capitals vs. Penguins Recap: Caps Erupt for Five Goals, Force Game 7

Who saw this coming?

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

See you Wednesday.

For the fourth time in franchise history, the Washington Capitals have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to force a decisive Game 7 with a 5-2 win, that wasn’t that close, over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena. After starting the series down two games to none, Washington rode a relentless forecheck and impenetrable defense to complete one of the more memorable wins in their recent history and set the stage for what could be a classic in two days’ time in Chinatown.

The Caps, who will play in their sixth closeout game in the Eastern Conference semifinals since 2009, dominated from the jump and held the Penguins to just eight shots on goal through two periods, and 18 overall.

Join the conversation below and read tonight’s plus-minus:

  • Plus: The stage has been set for what will almost certainly be the biggest win for this city in the last 25 years on Wednesday night. From my colleague Jason Rogers:
  • Minus: It shouldn’t matter what team you cheer for. Sidney Crosby’s head-first slide into the boards in the first period was especially frightening when you consider that he’s had several concussions throughout his career - as recently as Game 3 of this series. That the NHL’s concussion spotters didn’t remove Crosby from the game for an evaluation, after he was slow to get up, is plainly ludicrous and a slap in the face to the spirit of the game.

Ten notes/thoughts:

  • On the notion of redemption … Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said it himself, that he wants the Capitals to do what the North Carolina men’s basketball team did last month, which is to atone for the gutting failures of yesteryear with an equally heartwarming story of triumph. While a win on Wednesday wouldn’t even be to get into the championship round, where UNC lost at the buzzer in 2016 before winning this season, it would put to rest the idea of D.C. sports teams’ unmitigated inability to even advance far in the playoffs.
  • To that end, it’s been 19 years since that happened for any of the major local teams (Caps, Redskins, Nationals, and Wizards). 13 times those teams have gotten to this stage and ultimately fallen. Will 14 be their lucky number?
  • Speaking of 14. Justin “Mr. Game 7” Williams, will have his first chance to live up to that moniker since coming to Washington two summers ago. Teams he’s played on are 7-0 in all Game 7s, including two in the second round. He has seven goals and seven assists in all of those winner-take-all-games.
  • The Caps’ history in Game 7s is checkered, to say the least. In the Ovechkin era, they’re 2-4 at home and 3-6 overall. In their entire history, they’re 4-10 and just 3-7 at home.
  • The Caps’ first goal came on the power play after Crosby was called for hooking. Washington spread the Penguins’ defense out and kept them along the wings to give T.J. Oshie a golden chance for his first goal of the series, and he converted.
  • On the flip side of that first period, the Capitals couldn’t have been much more persistent in holding the Penguins at bay in the latter’s offensive zone, as they only registered three shots on goal in the first 20 minutes.
  • In the first two games of the series at Verizon Center, the Penguins’ goals were marked by their capitalization on the Caps’ sloppy giveaways throughout both games. On Monday, Washington only had four giveaways and it appeared that their newfound loose and relaxed attitude provided for more confident gameplay.
  • Over six minutes of power play time, the Penguins tallied a grand total of two shots on goal. The state of affairs on the banks of the Monongahela River reached a point where the Pittsburgh locals let the boo birds fly when their power play came up empty shift after shift.
  • As though Washingtonians simply needed to experience some sort of fear during the game, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin scored 52 seconds apart when the teams were 4-on-4 in the final four minutes of the game when Karl Alzner and Patric Hornqvist were both in the box.
  • With 7:30 left in the game, after Andre Burakovsky’s second goal of the night and third of the playoffs made it 5-0 Caps, many of those in attendance opted for an early night.

And there’s this...