Pen­guins shut out Caps, ad­vance to East fi­nal

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEPHEN WHYNO

WASHINGTON — Marc-An­dré Fleury turned back the clock with a bril­liant 29-save shutout, Bryan Rust and Pa­tric Horn­qvist scored and the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins beat the Washington Cap­i­tals, 2-0, in Game 7 on Wed­nes­day night to ad­vance to the Na­tional Hockey League’s East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

The de­fend­ing cham­pion Pen­guins are eight vic­to­ries away from another Stan­ley Cup and will have home-ice ad­van­tage against the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors. The Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy-win­ning Cap­i­tals failed to get beyond the sec­ond round for the sev­enth time in as many chances in the Alex Ovechkin era.

Rust was again a hero in a cru­cial game for Pitts­burgh, scor­ing his eighth goal in 12 career games fac­ing elim­i­na­tion or with the chance to elim­i­nate an op­po­nent. Fleury looked like his old self from the start of the se­ries if not his 2009 Cup run in frus­trat­ing the Cap­i­tals.

Braden Holtby made 26 saves in a los­ing ef­fort.

De­spite it be­ing the sec­ond round, this Game 7 had the feel of a de­cid­ing game of the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal with the top two teams in the NHL fac­ing off. Af­ter Pitts­burgh took a 3-1 se­ries lead, Washington roared back to tie it and seemed to have all the con­fi­dence.

When the Cap­i­tals had the game’s first four shots, Fleury was there to weather the storm and the Pen­guins re­sponded with the next six. It took un­til 8:49 of the sec­ond pe­riod for Pitts­burgh to si­lence the crowd as a failed clear by Matt Niska­nen got the puck from Sid­ney Crosby to Jake Guentzel to Rust for his fifth goal of the play­offs.

Holtby and Fleury went save for save, with the Pen­guins goal­tender get­ting the shaft of his stick on a shot by Ovechkin in the sec­ond pe­riod. It was so close Ovechkin started to raise his arms think­ing he had scored, and Fleury’s wide smile could be seen through his mask.

It re­mained a one-goal game un­til another failed clear by Washington’s Kevin Shat­tenkirk and Ovechkin. The puck ended up on Horn­qvist’s stick, and the Swedish for­ward put a back­han­der short side on Holtby 4:14 into the third to make it 2-0.

The Cap­i­tals tried ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing Brooks Or­pik fight­ing Scott Wil­son mid­way through the third, but couldn’t mount a come­back to turn the tide. Fans booed the fi­nal sec­onds of another home Game 7 loss.

The Cap­i­tals are now thrust into an off-sea­son of change. T.J. Oshie, Karl Alzner, Shat­tenkirk and Daniel Win­nik are un­re­stricted free agents and with sev­eral re­stricted free agents due raises it’ll be al­most im­pos­si­ble to keep them to­gether.

Pitts­burgh is missing sev­eral big pieces yet is mov­ing on. The re­silient Pen­guins have been with­out top de­fence­man Kris Le­tang and start­ing goal­tender Matt Mur­ray all play­offs, lost de­fence­man Trevor Da­ley be­fore Game 6 and dealt with a brief ab­sence of Crosby be­cause of a con­cus­sion. NOTES: Pitts­burgh im­proved to 6-0 on the road in Game 7s and 9-1 in se­ries against Washington . ... Pen­guins LW Carl Hagelin was a sur­prise scratch, re­placed in the lineup by Scott Wil­son . ... Da­ley missed his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game with a lower-body in­jury . ... Mur­ray dressed as Fleury’s backup for the first time since be­ing in­jured in warm-ups prior to Game 1 of the first round . ... F Carter Rowney re­placed Tom Kuhn­hackl (healthy scratch) on Pitts­burgh’s fourth line. ... The Cap­i­tals fell to 3-7 in the Ovechkin era in Game 7 . ... Washington has not made the con­fer­ence fi­nals since 1998. This is the Pen­guins’ fifth trip in 10 sea­sons.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.