CROSBY AND CO. DE­LIVER CAP­I­TAL PUN­ISH­MENT

Another Washington play­off flop as Pen­guins march on

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - DON BREN­NAN

WASHINGTON Backed by a 29-save shutout from the ac­ro­batic and once-for­got­ten Marc-An­dre Fleury, the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins did what they usu­ally do Wed­nes­day by elim­i­nat­ing the Washington Cap­i­tals.

Their 2-0 vic­tory at the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter im­proved the Pen­guins’ record to 4-0 against the Cap­i­tals in Game 7s and 9-1 in all-time play­off se­ries against Washington.

The Pen­guins will now host the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors in an East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal that is ex­pected to start Satur­day in Pitts­burgh.

“What a story,” Pen­guins cen­tre Matt Cullen said when asked about the Sen­a­tors, a team he played 21 games for in the 2009-10 sea­son. “They’re play­ing great. … We’ve had some good games with them this year. We know they’re a re­ally dan­ger­ous team.”

The Sen­a­tors and Pen­guins have met four times in post-sea­son play. The Sen­a­tors won the first set in five games, in 2007, but then lost the next three, start­ing with a sweep in 2008 be­fore 2010 (six games) and 2013 (five games).

The Sen­a­tors were 2-1-0 in their sea­son se­ries with the Pen­guins this year. Fleury was not ready to think about fac­ing the Sen­a­tors im­me­di­ately af­ter his star­ring per­for­mance against the Cap­i­tals.

“Oh geez. Not yet,” he said. “I’ll be happy to en­joy tonight and think about them tomorrow.”

And the Cap­i­tals will fret over yet another lost op­por­tu­nity. Washington has not made it past the sec­ond round of the play­offs since go­ing to the fi­nals in 1998. Sig­nif­i­cant changes will be ex­pected af­ter the team cruised to the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy with a 55-19-8 reg­u­lar-sea­son record. That might even in­clude Cap­i­tals cap­tain Alex Ovechkin, the only player on his team to have a mi­nus-2 be­side his name Wed­nes­day.

Asked about Ovechkin’s game, Cap­i­tals head coach Barry Trotz said: “Emo­tion­ally, I don’t want to an­swer that right now.”

Bryan Rust and Pa­tric Horn­qvist scored the Pen­guins’ goals against Braden Holtby, who made 26 saves.

Fleury took care of busi­ness around the Pitts­burgh net. Rel­e­gated to backup du­ties when Matt Mur­ray led the Pen­guins to their Cup win last spring, Fleury took over be­tween the pipes when Mur­ray suf­fered an undis­closed in­jury dur­ing the warm-up be­fore the Pen­guins’ first play­off game this spring.

On Wed­nes­day, Mur­ray suited up for the first time since to serve as the Pen­guins’ backup. He watched from the bench as the Pen­guins out­shot the Cap­i­tals for the first time in the se­ries.

Af­ter be­ing in a 3-1 se­ries hole and com­ing back to tie it up, there was a feel­ing the Cap­i­tals would fi­nally get past their neme­sis — es­pe­cially af­ter a con­vinc­ing 5-2 win on Mon­day.

“There was such a dif­fer­ence from Game 6 in scor­ing chances against,” Fleury said. “I thought we did a great job help­ing out around the net and not giv­ing them too much space. It was nice.”

Rust, who had a hat trick in an 8-5 win over the Sen­a­tors in De­cem­ber, scored his sixth goal of the play­offs to break a score­less tie at 8:49 of the sec­ond pe­riod.

The Cap­i­tals had a chance to clear the zone, but the puck was kept in at the blue-line and moved in to Sid­ney Crosby. He slid a pass to Jake Guentzel, who held on for a sec­ond be­fore feed­ing Rust. His quick shot beat Holtby over the left shoul­der.

Fleury’s best save of the game was off a one-timer from Ovechkin in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Horn­qvist put the Pen­guins up by a pair at the 4:14 mark of the third, right af­ter Ovechkin failed to bear down to get the puck out at the blue-line. Horn­qvist’s fourth of the post-sea­son was a per­fect back­hand that went through the legs of Cap­i­tals de­fence­man Nate Sch­midt and off the bar past Holtby’s catch­ing mitt.

The Pen­guins, who de­feated the San Jose Sharks in a six-game fi­nal last sea­son, are not yet play­ing to the level they’ve be­lieve they can this spring.

“Ob­vi­ously a lot of peo­ple counted us out af­ter the last game,” Cullen said. “I can un­der­stand it. We didn’t have a good game. They kind of ran all over us.

“It’s a credit to the char­ac­ter in the room to re­spond the way we did, come out and have a re­ally good game. We’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing spe­cial now. That was a big step.”

Said Pen­guins head coach Mike Sul­li­van: “This was hands down the best game we’ve played in the play­offs.”

Crosby agreed.

“I think this was a good char­ac­ter win for us,” he said.

PA­TRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins team­mates cel­e­brate Bryan Rust’s goal in the sec­ond pe­riod of Game 7 of their East­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal se­ries against the Washington Cap­i­tals on Wed­nes­day in Washington, D.C. The Pen­guins won 2-0 and will next play the Ot­tawa...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.