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The Washington Capitals can finally stop talking about their painful past. The Capitals earned the franchise’s first trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 20 years when they ousted two-time defending champion Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs. Washington will face Tampa Bay for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay won two of the three regular season meetings between the clubs
Tomas Hertl scored his team-leading fifth goal of the playoffs, Martin Jones made 34 saves for his sixth career postseason shutout and the San Jose Sharks evened their second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights with a 4-0 victory in Game 4. Marcus Sorensen and Joonas Donskoi scored in the first period to allow San Jose to play from ahead and Joe Pavelski added a power-play goal in the third to help the Sharks rebound from an overtime loss at home in Game 3.
Yanni Gourde stayed behind in Tampa Bay to be with his wife when she gave birth to their daughter on a day off in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He joined the team in Boston in time to record an assist in a 4-1 victory over the Bruins as the Lightning took a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 is Friday night.
The Washington Capitals will be without forward Tom Wilson for a portion of their playoff series against Pittsburgh. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended Wilson for 3 games for what it deemed an illegal hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3 that left Aston-Reese with a concussion and a broken jaw. The play overshadowed Washington’s 4-3 win that gave the Caps a 2-1 lead in the series.
The NHL has suspended Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson three games for an illegal hit on Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese. Aston-Reese was stickhandling near the Capitals bench when Wilson drilled the rookie with his left shoulder. The league ruled that Wilson made Aston-Reese’s head the point of contact and that the collision was avoidable.
Scoring is hard enough in the NHL but there have been a handful of spectacular goals that remind some more of baseball. A number of players have scored by using their sticks to bat the puck out of midair and into the net. In some cases, they’ve stopped a sure goal. Batting a puck at full speed during an NHL game is difficult, but the players say it is being done thanks to a mix of talent, instinct, timing and patience.
Blake Wheeler scored on the power play with 4:59 to play and the Winnipeg Jets roared back from an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the Nashville Predators 7-4 and grab a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series.
Alex Ovechkin knocked his own rebound out of midair and by Matt Murray with 1:07 remaining to lift the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of their increasingly testy Eastern Conference semifinal series with Pittsburgh. Ovechkin gave the Capitals a 2-1 series lead when he collected a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and fired a shot that ripped by Murray before hitting the right post.
Scoring a late goal to send an NHL playoff game into overtime would seem to generate momentum that would carry over to the extra session. But out of the four times this postseason a team forced OT in the final five minutes of regulation, that team has lost three of those games. The Vegas Golden Knights are just the latest team to ride that emotional roller coaster by winning Game 3 against San Jose.
Logan Couture’s second goal of the game, on the power play at 5:13 of the second overtime, lifted the San Jose Sharks to a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, tying their Western Conference semifinal series at one game apiece. Moments after Vegas’ Jon Merrill was called for hooking, Couture found the back of the net, as the Sharks stole home-ice advantage from Vegas. Brent Burns also scored two goals and Martin Jones stopped 26 shots for San Jose.
Rick Nash and Patrice Bergeron each scored two goals, leading the Boston Bruins to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their second-round NHL playoff series. Boston’s high-scoring line of Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand combined for 10 points.
Connor Hellebuyck made 47 saves and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal between the NHL’s top teams in the regular season. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was pulled after the second period after giving up three goals on 16 shots.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots for his third shutout of the playoffs, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the San Jose Sharks 7-0 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semis. Cody Eakin, Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault scored 1:31 apart early in the first to get Vegas going. Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Colin Miller and James Neal also scored, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson each had three assists, and Marchessault and David Perron added two each. Fleury got his 13th career playoff shutout.
Patric Hornqvist, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel scored in a 4:49 span to help the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 1 of the second-round series. Down 2-0 early in the third period and playing without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh turned it around with all three of its top-line forwards chipping in a goal. Crosby scored the tying goal when the puck bounced to him off Alex Ovechkin’s stick, and assisted on Guentzel’s go-ahead goal.
Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said there’s plenty of blame to go around for the team’s failure to again get beyond the first round of the NHL playoffs. He said everyone from the coaches on down has to take some responsibility. The Blue Jackets won the first two playoff games over the Washington Capitals only to lose four and row. They were eliminated in the first round for the second straight season.
Playing the Winnipeg Jets is exactly why Nashville coach Peter Laviolette wanted home-ice advantage in the NHL playoffs. Even if it’s a round – or two – earlier than anyone really wants. Laviolette’s Predators play Winnipeg in the Western Conference semifinals after turning in their best season in franchise history to edge out the Jets for the right to start and end a series in Smashville. This will be just the fifth series since 1990 between the NHL’s top two teams in the regular season.
Meeting three years in a row in the NHL playoffs has been a recipe for tension, pressure and hatred for decades. Players who have been through multiple series against the same opponent see few benefits other than familiarity. Former Edmonton defenseman Kevin Lowe says the checks are harder, the slashes worse. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins face each other for a third consecutive season. Game 1 is Thursday night in Washington.
Evgeni Malkin skated with his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates for the first time since suffering an apparent leg injury last week. Malkin will miss at least Game 1 of the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions’ second-round series against the Washington Capitals.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will meet in the playoffs for the 11th time when they clash in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Penguins have dominated their rivals in the postseason through the years, winning nine of the previous 10 meetings. Five times the Penguins have used the Capitals as a stepping stone on their way to the Stanley Cup. Washington is hoping this is the year they can offer the Penguins a little payback.
Jake DeBrusk scored his second goal of the game to break a third-period tie, and Boston came from behind to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-4 in Game 7. The Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning. That series begins Saturday.