Caps finish an improbable series comeback

Chris Russell
April 24, 2018 - 12:12 am
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Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

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It’s on to the second round and another date with destiny and the Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins for the Washington Capitals!

The Caps did the somewhat unthinkable on Monday night – bouncing back from a 0-2 deficit and winning a fourth straight game and third straight road game in Columbus to eliminate the Blue Jackets, 6-3.

So much for John Tortorella’s claim and promise that his team (and both teams) would be returning to Washington. Nice try, Torts. The only two teams heading to the nation's capital are the one that plays their home games there and the Penguins for games one and two later this week.

How did the Caps do it?

1 – Resiliency: The Caps took a 1-0 lead on a Dmitry Orlov goal and then gave it back after a failed 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. Columbus quickly tied it up and just when you thought disaster was lurking, Alex Ovechkin scored the first of his two goals on the night to give Washington a 3-1 lead, heading to the third period.

WATCH: Every Caps' Game 6 Goal

Columbus scored to make it 3-2 on a missed call behind the Caps net and once again, as things felt like they were slipping away, Devante Smith-Pelly raced up the left wing and buried one top-shelf cross-corner behind Sergei Bobrovsky for his eighth career playoff goal and his second of the series. That was 1:31 after Columbus had trimmed the lead and just 1:34 after that, Chandler Stephenson busted it open with a beautiful short-handed goal after a terrific poke-check in the neutral zone to free the puck.

Washington still had to hang on as the Blue Jackets added another but Lars Eller scored his second of the series, an empty-netter, to finish the series off.

Every time the Caps needed an answer they found one. Every time they needed to stop the bleeding, they did. That was the difference.

2 – The Caps blocked 23 shots on the night with veteran Brooks Orpik swallowing up several including a huge one late, right in his midsection. Orpik was credited with a team-leading five blocks along with Matt Niskanen who had four. Between the Caps 23 blocks and Braden Holtby’s 35 saves, the Caps did just enough defensively to thwart a talented attack.

3 – Alex Ovechkin answered the bell after a rough game five with a huge effort to help the Caps win the series. His first goal of the night was off a rebound from a hard shot saved by Bobrovsky. Ovechkin didn’t appear to even look at his rebound swipe and attempt – he almost just sensed it – and banged it home by out-muscling the defender.

His second goal was from “the office” on the power play. A vicious rip for his 51st career playoff goal.

4 – Credit to the coaching staff of the Caps who not only went back to Braden Holtby when they had to but also changed some things around on the penalty kill, which included pressuring the puck and point more. This led to the Capitals blanking Columbus again on the power-play (0-4) in game six and they’ve now killed off 17 straight power-play opportunities.

Jay Beagle makes a huge difference, as does Tom Wilson but so does Chandler Stephenson who scored the short-handed goal and many others to get the job done.

Overtime: The Caps showed a killer instinct that they haven’t always had when given the opportunity but for the third consecutive year, in the first round, they eliminated their opponent in a game-six situation on the road.

 

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