No Nick Backstrom. No Tom Wilson. No Andre Burakovsky. No problem!
The Washington Capitals are heading to the Eastern Conference Finals of the National Hockey League for the first time since 1998!
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game-winning goal at 5:27 of the first overtime on a perfect feed from Alex Ovechkin sent the Caps to where their captain, a lot of the core and the coach had never been. Past the conference semi-finals and four wins away from a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.
It's the first time the Capitals have defeated the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1993-94, and they did it in a building that suddenly they've had tremendous success in.
Washington won Game 3 and 6 of this series in Pittsburgh, as they did last year in the same exact round under very different circumstances. They won the Metropolitan Division title on Easter Sunday in the Steel City and once again proved to not only be road warriors but Game 6 close-out specialists.
The Flyers a few years ago in Philadelphia, the Maple Leafs in overtime last year, the Penguins to keep their season alive last season as well, the Columbus Blue Jackets two weeks ago in Ohio, and now Monday night’s game six thriller. FIVE road wins in Game Six situations over the last three years to either close out or extend a playoff series.
Say what you want about the heart of Alex Ovechkin and the curse of Washington D.C. or whatever the hell you want to say. None of it is true.
The Capitals outlasted the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, and for the first time in over 1,100 days, Pittsburgh lost a playoff series.
According to 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen, it's been 7,277 days since a D.C. team has made the final four of a major four professional sport.
Accolades aside – besides Kuznetsov’s game-winner – how else did the Capitals do the somewhat unthinkable?
In the last four-plus periods of playoff hockey dating back to the third period of Game 5, the Capitals took one penalty. ONE.
After the disastrous second period on Saturday night, which left their season hanging in the balance, that's remarkable.
They never gave up. They never quit. They never made excuses. And now they're going to try their luck in Tampa.