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Vegas Play of the Day: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins

20 May 2017

FILE - This April 28, 2010 file photo shows Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia, celebrating the team's 2-1 win as Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russian Federation, skates off after Game 7 of the.

It wasn't that long ago when the Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be well on their way to eliminating the Washington Capitals in their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

Game 5 (7:11-10 p.m. ET), in which the Capitals staved off elimination by coming back to beat the Penguins 4-2 at home, delivered a Total Audience Delivery average of 4.365 million viewers, making it the most-watched early-round Stanley Cup Playoff game in People Meter history (1993), as well as the second-most watched non-Stanley Cup Final game in 24 years, behind only the Chicago-Anaheim Western Conference Final Game 7 in 2015 (4.636 million).

For the second straight game, these Caps stared warily at that season hockey players dread: summer. They looked exhausted, disinterested, they were flat-footed, they turned the puck over... all of the things that won them the Stanley Cup (and a Game 6 versus the Capitals a year ago) they suddenly quit doing.

Game 7 is Wednesday night at Anaheim, with the victor advancing to face the Nashville Predators in the conference finals.

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The victor advances to the Eastern Conference final to face the New York Rangers or Ottawa.

"Yeah, yeah. Pretty standard", Crosby said. Let's face it, those shots are more likely to get blocked before they ever reach Fleury than they are to get on net. The first three rallied Washington from a 2-1 deficit to keep its season alive.

Barry Trotz's blue-line emphasis, a key in the Capitals' Game 5 victory, proved vital to Washington's success once more on Monday.

Jake Guentzel picked up his playoff-leading ninth goal and Evgeni Malkin added another late in the third period to make the score look cosmetically better, but the Penguins were never in it.

Coach Mike Sullivan agreed almost word for word.

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Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan tinkered with his line combinations reuniting the "HBK" line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel) that played an instrumental part in the team's Cup run last spring.

NOTES: Penguins D Trevor Daley did not play after getting hit by Washington's Tom Wilson in Game 5. Though "HBK" was hardly the only group that had issues. Oshie, who opened the scoring with a first-period power-play goal. Despite Crosby being slow to get up, the NHL's central concussion spotter was unable to have him removed from the game due to semantics in league policy. He didn't miss a shift and stressed he felt fine. That's okay if you're ahead, but it is hard to come back from when trailing especially given Washington's overwhelming shot advantage.

The Penguins couldn't seem to move the puck out of their zone, and the rare times they escaped their zone, they had trouble entering Washington's zone. If it was administered between periods, that's a failure of the system; players aren't supposed to be sent back out onto the ice until they're cleared. Now they're doing neither.

Fleury has allowed nine goals on 58 shots the past two games after nine on 142 shots the first four games against the Capitals.

"I don't know if there's any hump to get over", said Trotz, who is 1-1 with the Capitals in two Game 7 opportunities in 2015. I really, really hope there's no reason to be playing video of this hit in 20 years. "But you have to give Washington credit too".

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