Pittsburgh Penguins fall to Washington Capitals, series heads to Game 7
PITTSBURGH — The boos could be heard all night. The sound didn’t fill the PPG Paints Arena, and it didn’t travel heavily from section-to-section, but throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, boos popped up in patches.
It was easy to pick out the sound, especially since there wasn’t much for fans to cheer about during Monday’s Game 6. The Penguins were outplayed from the time the game started. In their worst performance of the postseason, they were outshot 26-17, including 11-3 in the first period.
Pittsburgh went into the second intermission trailing 2-0 and any lingering hope for a comeback seemed to vanish 16 seconds into the third period on a Nicklas Backstrom goal. The Capitals then added two more goals that period, building a commanding 5-0 lead. After the second, goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury threw his arms out helplessly by his sides as gold-clad fans streamed toward the exits.
It took until the final three minutes for Pittsburgh to come to life. It scored two goals — one from Jake Guentzel and the other from Evgeni Malkin — but it was too late for a comeback. The most the Penguins could hope for was some momentum to carry into Game 7.
“I think everybody wants to be attacking,” said Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz. “That’s the idea and that’s the way we’ve played the majority of the season is attacking, having the puck and putting it on net.
“We haven’t been able to generate the speed and kind of break out of our end as we needed to put a team like that on their heels. We’ve got to go back and refocus.”
The Penguins will get a third and final chance to win the Eastern Conference semifinal in Wednesday’s Game 7. This time, though, the series will be tied. And instead of the friendly confines of its home arena, Pittsburgh will be back on the road.
“It’s frustrating when you’ve got an opportunity to win a series at home and you don’t play the way you’d like,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “To a man, we weren’t good enough.”
The Penguins entered Saturday’s Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead, but they fell on the road at Washington. The Capitals once appeared ready to bow out. Now, they seem like the aggressor.
“I said it all along, our group has pretty good resolve and we’ve grown from our past,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz.
“We’ve sort of been able to park things. That’s good on our leaders, good on our group. They’ve been calm since about Game 3. We’re having fun now. Our leadership has grabbed hold of the last few games.”
The Penguins have been outshot by the Capitals in every game of the series — all but twice by double digits — but Fleury has often been able to make up the difference. That hasn’t been the case in the last two games as the discrepancy seems to have caught up with Pittsburgh.
The Capitals started the scoring at the 12:41 mark of the first period as T.J. Oshie netted a power play goal. At the 6:36 mark of the second period, Andre Burakovsky stretched the advantage of 2-0 with an unassisted goal.
“We’re still in the same spot,” Fleury said. “We just need one more win and that’s the good thing about it.”