CAPS RALLY FROM THREE-GOAL DEFICIT BUT BOUNCED IN OVERTIME
The Washington Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but once there they were overwhelmed and Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into the extra session to promote the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending the President’s Trophy winning Caps packing, once again.
It was, perhaps, the most Caps-like way of being eliminated from a playoff series.
Logically, it shouldn’t have gotten to overtime. The Penguins came out focused and flying, dominating the Caps in all facets of the game though the first 38 minutes. Phil Kessel put the Pens up 1-0 in the first, then Brooks Orpik was assessed a double-minor high-sticking penalty, and Kessel and Carl Hagelin made it 3-0, cashing in on both penalties, midway though the second period.
But T.J. Oshie got the Caps on the board with a power play goal with 1:30 left in the second, giving the Caps some hope going into the third. Then Justin Williams added one 7:23 into the third period and suddenly a comeback looked do-able. Then things got weird, as the Penguins were assessed three consecutive delay-of-game penalties, giving the Caps a pair of five-on-three power plays.
They made good on just one, however, with John Carlson’s rocket tying the game at three with 13:01 left in regulation.
Both teams had good opportunities down the stretch, but as they had all series, Braden Holtby and Matt Murray stood tall and kept things deadlocked to force an extra session.
Unfortunately for the road team, the Penguins came out on fire once again in overtime. A sequence early should have ended it there, but Holtby made several “how did he do that” saves, and Jay Beagle dove to deflect a puck off the goal line, only to prolong the agony.
Bonino’s game winner came off another excellent save by Holtby, a low kick save, but Matt Niskanen was unable to tie up the Pens’ forward and Bonino got just enough of the rebound on the backhand to sneak it past the prone Holtby and into the gaping net.
There are no clever words to describe the disappointment for this Caps team being eliminated in the second round, prolonging the District’s bizarre tenure of being the only city with at least three of the four major sports not advancing a team into a conference finals since the last time the Caps did it in 1998.
This team seemed to be “built the right way.” It rolled four lines all season long, and had legitimate NHL forwards in the press box most nights. Could they use another defenseman? Sure, but who can’t? As they’re constructed, the Caps have a nice blend of youth and experience and should challenge the top of the conference again next season.
That doesn’t help now, though. For now, it’s disappointment, yet again.