NHL Playoffs Build In Intensity
Inspiration, perspiration and desperation carried the Washington Capitals to a 3-0 victory Monday night over the Tampa Bay Lightning to force a seventh game in their NHL Eastern Conference playoff series.
Twenty years removed from their only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals and on the verge of another postseason flameout, the Capitals put together a powerful display of physicality and pressure to earn that seventh game on Wednesday night in Tampa (where they won the first two games of the series).
In Game 6, the Caps threw their bodies around with a fierce previously unseen, led by Alex Ovechkin. They played as if this really mattered. And, of course, it did.
“It’s desperation, really. If you don’t win tonight, you’re not moving on,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. So you try to empty the tank as much as you can.”
The first period was scoreless and the last goal went into an empty net. In between, the Capitals had enough good chances to score a few more, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves for the Lightning. He kept them in it as the Caps bumped and checked and knocked the Lightning off the puck.
“Was it a fairly even game? There’s no question. But what were the hits? 39-19? Somebody was engaged, and somebody wasn’t. That’s a choice,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “You can spin this any way you want. You can sit here and say, ‘Look at Tampa. They were down 0-2, and they pushed it to a Game 7.’ Or you can say, ‘They blew a great opportunity to close this series out.’”
Someone will move on and someone will go home after Game 7. The Capitals have a history of packing their bags too early. Everything they did on Monday night says they can continue on. But they have to do it all again.
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