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.”