Final score: Washington Capitals 0, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
How it happened: After a dominant opening flurry from Washington, both teams settled into an even period as both were held off the scoreboard in the first. The even plan continued in the second until an attempt to clear the puck along the boards by Matt Niskanen backfired as Ian Cole collected it in front of the blue line and started the quick attack ending with a goal for Bryan Rust. Another turnover along the boards by Kevin Shattenkirk turned into a third period goal by Patric Hornqvist. Despite trailing, Washington was able to muster almost no offense in the final frame, finishing with just five shots on goal in the third period.
What it means: For the second year in a row, the Capitals have been eliminated from the playoffs in the second round by the rival Penguins. Washington has not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1998 and now face a lot of tough offseason questions as they have reached the end of general manager Brian MacLellan’s two-year window.
Penguins goal: Bryan Rust from Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby at 8:49 in the 2nd. Matt Niskanen tried to play the puck along the boards in the defensive zone, but it was intercepted by Ian Cole who quickly passed it back up to Crosby. Crosby fed Guentzel who showed good patience and waited to hit the trailing Rust. Rust then beat Holtby just over the shoulder for the goal. Caps 0, Penguins 1
Penguins goal: Patrick Hornqvist from Justin Schultz at 4:14 in the 3rd. Braden Holtby tapped a puck along to Kevin Shattenkirk who had more room than he apparently thought because he carelessly flicked the puck along the boards. Schultz won the race for the puck and chopped it up to Hornqvist. Hornqvist tried the hopeful backhand and managed to tuck it off the crossbar and in. Caps 0, Penguins 2
3 Caps stars
1. Braden Holtby: The early series struggles now seem like a distant memory for Holtby as he put together another strong performance on Wednesday. He did absolutely everything he could to keep Washington in this one, but it was not enough.
2. Lars Eller: We know how Barry Trotz's line change benefitted Andre Burkovsky, but Lars Eller has played well too and that continued on Wednesday. He looked confident and his play reflected that.
3. Brooks Orpik: When the Caps had nothing going for them in the third period, Orpik tried to spark the team by dropping the gloves with Scott Wilson. Someone needed to do something to wake up the Caps.
Look ahead: The quest for the Stanley Cup begins again in October.
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