This is a game that will probably determine which team represents the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
So it was Monday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
John Carlson and T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals. "We wanted to spread our scoring out".
Backstrom has four goals in his last five games and goaltender Braden Holtby has regained his regular season form, while Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been human in the last two games. In Game 2, the Senators got two goals 2:17 apart late in the third before winning in the second overtime to take a 2-0 series lead.
He clings to those moments - Dale Hunter's Game 7 breakaway against Ron Hextall in 1988, or Joel Ward's victor against Boston in 2012. It's going to be the toughest game of the series. They seem to be exhausted out there instead of going for the win. The wide shots and possession advantage the Capitals had after the opening game only increased in Game 2, despite the Penguins' blowout win, and it hasn't slowed since. Pittsburgh did not record its first shot on goal at five-on-five until just 1.1 seconds remained in the first period. The series is even for the first time since it started, and it's up to the Penguins to respond. Those spotters, working both from a centralized location via TV feed and from the stands of games themselves, have the power to trigger a player's removal from the game if they deem protocol necessary. It would in effect tell the huge pink elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge to go away and never come back.
From the first drop of the puck, it was the Caps' night.
So much can change so swiftly at this time of year.
It wasn't unlike most of the first four games of the series, when Washington would control play for long stretches only to have Pittsburgh expertly counter on its way to a 3-1 advantage. The Capitals have a huge chance on Wednesday night to silence nay sayers and their own demons. According to a report from the USA Today, the concussion spotters had no authority to pull Crosby off the ice after that Game 6 incident.
But as we are learning today, those protocols can often be confusing, and on occasion, may be leaving players vulnerable. They just want to win. "We've got a chance to beat them in seven". If it was administered between periods, that's a failure of the system; players aren't supposed to be sent back out onto the ice until they're cleared.
The Capitals have spent the better part of the season insisting this time, things will be different. I'm sure that you could poll 100 people, and 99 of them would say they'd rather play at home. "Get to their zone a little bit more often". "They're Stanley Cup champions for a reason".
Last year, the Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy.
"At the end of the day let's not forget, if Sidney Crosby doesn't have any symptoms, they evaluate him, he passes that baseline test, which is not a flawless test", Jha says. "It comes down to one game, and finding a way to execute when it means the most".
Everyone knows how good Alex Ovechkin is and the Penguins will do everything they can to stifle him offensively, but in Washington's three wins this series, two other players have proven to be critical. Sullivan said, and he did not elaborate. Those Caps arrived home with all sorts of momentum and anticipation, and they were simply overwhelmed in a 6-2 Penguins victory. "We're excited for that opportunity and that challenge". There is literally nothing better in the hockey world. "So you're going to see their best game and their most desperate game of the series".
Which brings us back to Fleury.
"We've got some guys that have been through a lot, this team has a lot of experience in these types of situations, and I think they have that experience to draw on". That can cut down on the quality of hockey being played down the stretch. Jake Guentzel leads Pittsburgh with nine goals, Evgeni Malkin has 13 assists and Phil Kessel has 34 shots on goal. "We know that's not going to be the exact same story".