The Washington Capitals dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of their Eastern Conference playoff series, picking up a 5-2 win on Monday night that would’ve been a 5-0 win were it not for a late lapse.
Despite a few twilight issues, the Capitals played their best hockey of these playoffs. They embarrassed the Penguins in Pittsburgh and sent the home crowd packing after a 5-0 lead made things hard to watch.
It was a measure of redemption for Washington, who needed the win to stave off elimination.
And now it’s a whole new series, with the Capitals looking to wipe out the Penguins and Pittsburgh suddenly looking like the underdog.
Washington outshot the Penguins 11-3 in the first period on Monday and seemed to make goalie Marc-Andre Fleury uncomfortable. T.J. Oshie had the first goal, while Austria’s Andre Burakovsky had two – both of which were unassisted.
Burakovsky scored by stripping the Penguins’ shaky defence and finding the twine, a situation that happened a lot more than Pittsburgh would like to admit.
The Capitals made adjustments to get the right mix, too. Alex Ovechkin was shifted to the third line again, a move Barry Trotz made in Game Five. The move seemed to work, as Ovechkin scored in Game Five but went without a point in Game Six. He played 17:26.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby played over two minutes more and collected an assist – the 97th post-season helper of his career, good enough to break Mario Lemieux’s record.
But it was 22-year-old Burakovsky who owned Game Six. His two goals seemed directly related to the newfound confidence he has in his game. He was moved up to the top line over the weekend and it paid off.
“I think everything is coming with confidence,” Burakovsky said. “I mean, during this whole playoff, I think I’ve been creating so many chances and the only thing I’ve been missing is to maybe hit the net. I’ve been working on it in practice and been watching video, what I can do to find success, and obviously it’s working pretty good for me.”
With momentum swinging Washington’s way, Pittsburgh has a lot to prove in Game Seven on Wednesday. They’re 3-3 in Game Seven situations since drafting Crosby, while the Capitals are a disappointing 3-6 in Game Sevens since the arrival of Ovechkin. That may not bode well for Burakovsky and Co. going into the deciding matchup.
But if Washington’s proven anything in these playoffs so far, it’s that history may not matter much after all.