It certainly wasn’t easy on themselves or their fans, but the Capitals are a quarter of the way toward winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scored 8:59 into the second period with a bad-angle bullet under the crossbar and goaltender Braden Holtby stopped all 26 shots he faced for his fourth career playoff shutout to give the Caps a 1-0 win over Michal Neuvirth and the Flyers Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
With the win the Caps finished off the Flyers in six games and earned the right to face perhaps the hottest team in hockey, the Pittsburgh Penguins, for the first time in the playoffs since 2009.
The schedule for Round 2 has not yet been announced, but with Justin Bieber slated to perform at Verizon Center on Friday, it’s likely Game 1 will be either Thursday or Saturday night in Chinatown.
The Caps went 2-2-1 in five games against the Penguins this season and were outscored 16-13 in the season series. Sidney Crosby netted a goal and three assists, while Alex Ovechkin was held without a point.
The Penguins have ousted the Capitals in seven of their eight playoff meetings, with the Caps’ only post-season win against them coming in 1994.
How it happened: Both teams squandered 5-on-3 power-play opportunities before Backstrom gave the Caps the lead just 4 seconds after a holding-the-stick penalty to Ryan White expired. John Carlson began the play with a long outlet pass to Ovechkin, who fought off a stick check by Radko Gudas at the blue line and fed the puck to Marcus Johansson. Johansson hit Backstrom with a pass at the bottom of the right circle and Backstrom one-timed a shot over an outstretched Neuvirth for his second goal and team-high seventh point of the series. The Flyers were held to just 15 shots through two periods but kept the pressure on Holtby in the third.
Save of the game: With six seconds remaining in regulation, Jay Beagle slid in front of a one-timer by Wayne Simmonds on what could have been a game-tying goal.
Stat worth remembering: The Caps improved to 4-0 in the playoffs and 41-0-1 overall when leading after two periods.
Feeling Neuvy: Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth might have earned the No. 1 job to start next season with his herculean performance in Games 4, 5 and 6. He stopped 103 of 105 shots
What’s next: A day off maybe? With at least three days off before the next series the Caps are likely to get the day off on Monday.