That they're not burdened by the weight of the team's history of playoff flameouts, one most of the guys in red, white and blue had nothing to do with.
Andre Burakovsky scored twice as the Washington Capitals thrashed the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 to level their Eastern Conference semi-final series on Monday. In Game 6 on Monday night, he crashed head-first into the boards and appeared to be dazed by the blow.
Holding two-goal leads in the postseason has been a tenuous proposition at best, with 13 times teams letting them away so far in the postseason.
The Penguins averaged 33.6 shots per game during the regular season, which ranked first overall. Not that it bothers the Capitals. Intent on not repeating history yet again, the Capitals jumped on the defending Stanley Cup champions early and didn't relent until the things were well in hand and a once raucous arena was largely empty. Crosby is so great that it's hard to see a difference between his play from before and after missing Game 4, but as hockey fans and human beings, we just have to hope that he's not doing irreparable damage to his health. "We're having fun now", said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. Pittsburgh has won the three previous deciding games, the last in 2009 in Washington on its way to the Stanley Cup. Surely the NHL's enhanced concussion protocols, introduced at the beginning of the season, would force Crosby from the game. The Penguins finished with just 18 over the course of the game, a pair of late goals by Malkin and budding rookie star Jake Guentzel making the final score a bit more respectable but no less decisive. We know we have a good goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury).
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan tinkered with his line combinations reuniting the "HBK" line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel) that played an instrumental part in the team's Cup run last spring. Sullivan also moved rookie Guentzel alongside Malkin and put Conor Sheary with Sidney Crosby, who was a nonfactor for a second straight game after sitting out Game 4 because of a concussion.More news: Juventus beats Monaco 2-1 to reach Champions League final
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None of it worked as Washington pushed the Penguins around. He took a nasty spill in the first period when he was slammed into the end boards head-first while he tangled with Carlson. He even gave defenceman Dmitry Orlov a forceful facewash, a jab Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. could have found useful Saturday night, but I digress.
Goaltender Braden Holtby made a decision to take it a little easier on the youngest member of the Washington Capitals. By then the Capitals already had a 1-0 lead on Oshie's shot from the right circle on the power play.
While much has been made of the Capitals losing five of 12 series when leading 3-1, the Penguins have lost three series after leading 3-1, most recently in 2014 against the Rangers.
The best moments were the times they got the puck past Fleury, the 2009 Stanley Cup victor who was Matt Murray's backup on the Penguins' title run a year ago and is only starting because of the 23-year-old's injury. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's top trio with Sidney Crosby went without a shot on goal for the first 37-plus minutes of the game. After Oshie had a monster shift to keep the puck in the zone, Penguins defenseman Ron Hainsey got it along the boards and was about to clear it out of Pittsburgh's end when Burakovsky hit him and separated from the puck.