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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their playoff domination of the Washington Capitals, eliminating the Presidents’ Trophy winners in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference second-round series in Washington on Wednesday night.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators. With the loss, the Capitals have still yet to appear in a championship round in the Alex Ovechkin era.
The Penguins’ 2-0 win featured dynamic goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 29 saves for his second career Game 7 win at Verizon Center. It also featured a Capitals team that wasn’t the loose, “nothing to lose” group that had rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7.
Suddenly, they had something to lose. They played like it. Passes didn’t connect. Shots were fumbled. Clearing attempts failed.
This being a Capitals’ Game 7, it was more than that. There were posts hit. There was an Alex Ovechkin shot that deflected off the top of Fleury’s goalie stick. And there was a tough goal surrendered by goalie Braden Holtby in the third period, who had been unflappable in the last two wins and in most of Game 7.
This game was more reminiscent of the first two games of this series, in which Fleury backstopped the Penguins until they could get on the board, than the last two. Pittsburgh looked faster, played smarter and preyed on mistakes.
The Penguins broke through at 8:49 of the second period on a pretty passing play.
A clearing attempt by defenseman Matt Niskanen was intercepted by Ian Cole of the Penguins, who made a quick pass to Sidney Crosby, catching the Capitals flat-footed. Crosby slipped the puck to Jake Guentzel, who found Bryan Rust on the opposite side of Braden Holtby. Rust’s shot beat the goalie high, and it was 1-0.
Rust continued his reputation as Mr. Elimination Game, as he now has eight goals in 11 career elimination game.
In the third period, the Penguins went up 2-0 as Holtby was screened and Patric Hornqvist snuck a shot through him for his fourth of the playoffs.
Again, the Capitals had trouble in their own zone in ways that they didn’t in the previous two games, and it cost them.
Game 7 was, once again, a cruel place for the Capitals. They’re now 4-11 in franchise history in Game 7s, and 3-8 in them on home ice. The Penguins remained undefeated (4-0) against their favorite objects of torment in Game 7s.
How poorly have the Capitals fared in Game 7s? Put it this way: Winger Justin Williams, a.k.a. Mr. Game 7, entered the game 7-0 in his career in them, with 14 points.
He didn’t score against the Penguins on Wednesday night.
And he’s now 7-1.
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