If you asked the Capitals, they would tell you there is no solace in knowing they were eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins completed their remarkable journey from a team that fired its coach in December to one hoisting Lord Stanley’s silver chalice following a tense 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 6.
Defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang and forward Patric Hornqvist netted goals for the Penguins and rookie goaltender Matt Murray turned aside 18 of 19 shots to give the Penguins their fourth Stanley Cup in team history (1991, 1992, 2009, 2016).
The Penguins mowed down the Rangers in five games, the Capitals in six games, the Lightning in seven games and the Sharks in six games.
They did so under the direction of head coach Mike Sullivan, who was hired on Dec. 13 after the Penguins got off to a 15-10-3 record and fell to fifth in the Metropolitan Division standings. Sullivan’s first game behind the Penguins’ bench came against the Capitals on Dec. 14, a game the Caps won 4-1 in Pittsburgh. The Penguins lost their first four games under Sullivan to fall to 15-14-3, but went 33-12-5 in the final four months of the regular season to finish second behind the Caps in the Eastern Conference standings.
Each of the Penguins’ four wins against the Capitals were by one goal, with two coming in overtime. Burt that seemed little consolation to the Caps, at least not in the opinion of defenseman Brooks Orpik, a former Penguin who won the Cup with them in 2009.
“It’s only been my second year and I know there’s a lot made of not getting by the second round and I’m sure people feel that frustration,” Orpik said. “But I’ve lost in the Finals before and whether you lose in the Finals or if you lose in the second round, you lost. The goal here is to win the Stanley Cup and I can tell people you don’t feel any better losing in the Finals than you do losing in the second round. I mean, you either win or you lose.”
GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.
Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.
Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.
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After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.
The first period
To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.
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Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game
Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.
A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other
Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.
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