Capitals aim to end Penguins' elimination-game survival run

By Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange  |  May 7, 2018 at 10:56 AM
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Four times under coach Mike Sullivan, the Pittsburgh Penguins have gone into an elimination game in the playoffs. They have won each en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.

On Monday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, the Washington Capitals will try to end the Penguins' run with a win in Game 6 of a second-round series. Washington, after winning 6-3 in Game 5, leads the series 3-2 and can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with a win.

The Capitals are 1-9 all time in postseason series against Pittsburgh, with two of the losses coming the past two years, so they have a sense of needing to get past the Penguins' roadblock.

"It's not over yet," Capitals winger Brett Connolly said. "They're a good team. We know that. [Game 5 Saturday was] obviously a big win. We just need to find a way this year. We need to find a way to get that last win no matter what it takes."

The Penguins will need to win not only Monday but also Wednesday in a potential Game 7 at Washington if they are to have a chance to win a third Cup in a row.

Even with that cushion, the Capitals are taking a conservative approach.

"I can tell you how I feel if there's four wins," Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. "Where it's at right now doesn't matter at all. All that matters is the next game. That's got to be our mindset if we want to have success and take a mature approach to it."

Pittsburgh can draw on those four elimination games it won in its recent Cup runs for experience. One of those games was a 2-0 victory in Game 7 against Washington last year, also in the second round.

"We've done it before," Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "We know we've got it in this group. We're going back home. We've been good at home all year. We win one game there, come back [to Washington] and play a Game 7. That's nothing new to us, nothing we're afraid of. We've just got to bring our best effort again in Game 6."

Sullivan said the Penguins have another intangible.

"It comes down to character and the people we have in our dressing room," he said.

Washington's win in Game 5 might have had a couple of caveats in the form of possible injuries to defenseman John Carlson and center Nicklas Backstrom, although coach Barry Trotz said both were expected to travel to Pittsburgh and should be available.

The Capitals already are without wingers Andre Burakovsky (injury) and Tom Wilson (suspension). Wilson would be eligible to return for a Game 7.

Pittsburgh came away from its loss Saturday -- in which Washington scored two empty-net goals -- feeling pretty good about everything but the final score.

"I liked our effort," winger Patric Hornqvist said. "I liked our attitude and all that. We just have to clean up our mistakes, and we'll be fine."

That is a popular belief among the Penguins.

"Everybody understands the situation," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "It brings out everyone's best. You don't have anything to save it for, so you go out there with one focus, and that's win a hockey game and get to a Game 7. That's our mindset here.

"We have a lot of good things to build off. We just need to make sure we keep going, keep playing the same way."

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