If there were any doubts as to how special and exciting the Stanley Cup playoffs are, one only needed to watch Game 6 of the Second Round Series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. It had everything for which a fan could ask.
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime giving his team a 4-3 win.
The Penguins won the series 4-2 and eliminated the 2016-17 President’s Trophy winner Washington Capitals from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pittsburgh will faceoff against last season’s Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning in a best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final.
“For me, it was the consummate team win,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan after his team’s victory.
Phil Kessel scored two goals and assisted on another for Pittsburgh. Carl Hagelin joined the scoring parade by scoring once and assisting on two others. Goaltender Matt Murray stopped 36 shots to record the win.
Kessel opened the scoring 5:41 into the first period. Kris Letang started the play by stripping the puck off the stick of a Capital forward. He took control of the puck and sent it to his defense partner Brian Dumoulin, who gave a touch pass to Hagelin. Hagelin moved the puck to Kessel and the speedy winger reeled off a snap shot from inside the faceoff circle beating Washington goaltender Braden Holtby to the short side giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
With Pittsburgh holding the lead and outplaying the Capitals, the Penguins went on the power play at 6:25 of the second period when Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik was sent off for four minutes for high-sticking. Kessel would add to his team’s lead with a power play goal at 7:38. Chris Kunitz had the puck at the left point. He passed to Letang at the right point, who found Kessel alone on the left half-wall. Kessel received Letang’s pass and carried the puck left to right in front of Holtby’s crease before sending a wrist shot past the goaltender and Pittsburgh had a 2-0 lead.
Hagelin made it 3-0 for the Penguins when he scored just 35 seconds after Kessel’s power play goal. Hagelin’s lamplighter was also a power play goal as Orpik continued to serve his infraction. After Pittsburgh moved the puck around the Capitals zone, Trevor Daley passed it along the blue line to Olli Maata, who sent a quick wrist shot at Holtby. The puck took flight and Hagelin deflected the waist-high shot past Holtby.
Just when social media was exploding with people making the asinine claim that if Washington lost the game and the series it would be Alex Ovechkin’s fault, TJ Oshie broke the shut out for the Capitals.
Oshie’s goal came on a power play with 1:30 to play in the second period. Ovechkin intercepted a Pittsburgh clearing attempt along the left half-wall and sent the puck behind the Pittsburgh net. Nicklas Backstrom collected it in the right corner and immediately passed the disc to Oshie, who was in the slot. Oshie sent a hard wrist shot at eluded Penguins goaltender Matt Murray and Washington trailed Pittsburgh 3-1.
The third period was all but completely controlled by Washington and that was due to Pittsburgh getting themselves into penalty trouble.
Justin Williams made the score 3-2 at the 7:23 mark of the third period. Backstrom brought the puck along the wall into the Penguins zone. He saw Williams behind Murray’s net and hit him with a pass. Williams brought the puck from behind the net to Murray’s right then unleashed a high wrist shot that landed in the net after going over the netminder’s glove.
The penalty trouble began at 10:32 of the third period when Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Bonino would bat the puck out of the air and it landed in the crowd for a second delay of game penalty at 11:38.
The Washington power play went to work and tied the game at 3-3 when John Carlson scored at 13:01. He and Ovechkin played pitch and catch with the puck along the Pittsburgh blue line. Carlson stepped into Ovechkin’s pass to one-time it past Murray and it was a new game that would head into overtime.
In the overtime, Bonino became the hero when he swept home a rebound of a Hagelin shot and it is on to Tampa for the Penguins.
Justin Williams scored his 14th career goal in an elimination game to help Washington tie Game 6.
Game 6 of this series was the 16th overtime game of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs (70 games played), three shy of last year’s playoffs (19 in 89 games played).
Nick Bonino’s overtime game-winning goal was the third of his career. It was his second career series-clinching goal in OT (also Game 6 of 2014 First Round versus Dallas with Anaheim).
Pittsburgh improved to 8-1 in all-time playoff series versus Washington. They also improved to 11-3 in all-time best-of-seven series in which they led 3-1.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Penguins became the fifth team in NHL history to clinch a series in overtime after leading the game by three-plus goals.
Stat of the Night:
Pittsburgh is 45-0-0 when leading after two periods this season including playoffs.
Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Schedule:
Game 7 – Western Conference Second Round – St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.