Caps over­whelm Pens, force Game 7

WASH­ING­TON 5, PITTS­BURGH 2

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - WILL GRAVES

PITTS­BURGH — An­dre Bu­rakovsky scored twice, Nick­las Back­strom got his sixth of the play­offs and the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals beat the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins, 5-2, on Mon­day night to force a Game 7 in their taut Na­tional Hockey League Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal.

John Carl­son and T.J. Oshie also scored for the Cap­i­tals. Braden Holtby stopped 16 to send the se­ries back to Wash­ing­ton for the de­cid­ing game on Wed­nes­day night.

Jake Guentzel picked up his play­off-lead­ing ninth goal and Ev­geni Malkin added an­other 52 sec­onds later late in the third pe­riod to make the score look cos­met­i­cally bet­ter, but the Pen­guins were never in it. The Cap­i­tals con­trolled play through­out. Marc-An­dré Fleury fin­ished with 21 saves and re­ceived lit­tle help in front him.

This is the fourth time the Pen­guins and Cap­i­tals will meet in a Game 7. Pitts­burgh has won each of the three pre­vi­ous de­cid­ing games, the last in 2009 in Wash­ing­ton on its way to the Stan­ley Cup.

The Cap­i­tals ap­peared on the verge of an­other un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous exit at the hands of the Pen­guins go­ing into the third pe­riod of Game 5. The Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy winners re­sponded with a three-goal bar­rage over the fi­nal 20 min­utes that ex­tended their sea­son.

The mo­men­tum car­ried over two days later and 250 miles north­west. Wash­ing­ton sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tled the de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons, who looked list­less as they strug­gled to gen­er­ate any kind of sus­tained pres­sure.

Pitts­burgh coach Mike Sul­li­van tin­kered with his ros­ter af­ter Game 5, re­unit­ing the “HBK” line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kes­sel) that played an in­stru­men­tal part in the team’s Cup run last spring. Sul­li­van also moved rookie Guentzel along­side Malkin and put Conor Sheary with Crosby.

Crosby was a non­fac­tor for a sec­ond straight game af­ter sit­ting out Game 4 with a con­cus­sion. He took a nasty spill in the first pe­riod when he was slammed into the end boards head­first while he tan­gled with Carl­son. He re­mained in the game but found lit­tle room to work.

Then again, nei­ther did any of his team­mates as Wash­ing­ton dom­i­nated on both ends of the ice. Pitts­burgh’s first shot in the open­ing 17 min­utes was a 136-foot flip by Brian Du­moulin that made its way to Holtby. By then the Cap­i­tals al­ready had a 1-0 lead on Oshie’s shot from the right cir­cle on the power play.

It wasn’t un­like most of the first four games of the se­ries, when Wash­ing­ton would con­trol play for long stretches only to have Pitts­burgh ex­pertly coun­ter­punch on its way to a 3-1 se­ries lead.

This time, there would be no re­sponse by the Pens. Pitts­burgh had trou­ble ex­e­cut­ing sim­ple plays. De­fence­man Ron Hain­sey went to the boards to re­trieve a puck in the Pen­guins end only to get checked by Bu­rakovsky, who skated away with the puck and stuffed a shot past Fleury 6:36 into the sec­ond.

GENE J. PUSKAR, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton’s T.J. Oshie cel­e­brates his goal with Alex Ovechkin in Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal play­off se­ries against the Pen­guins in Pitts­burgh on Mon­day night. The Cap­i­tals won eas­ily to even the se­ries at 3-3 and force a Game 7 in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day night.

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