The Capitals storybook season came to a crashing end Wednesday night in Chinatown with an unforeseen blowout, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2 in Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Following a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory in Pittsburgh two nights prior, Washington began the first half of the opening period clearing the puck well and spending an abundant amount of time in the Penguins zone but as the period went on, Pittsburgh became more physical and determined to swarm to the puck.
With over seven and a half minutes to play in the first period, the Penguins struck first with a goal by guess who? Sidney Crosby. His 11th goal of the playoffs was followed eight seconds later with teammate Craig Adams’ first career postseason goal to give the Penguins a surprisingly quick 2-0 lead.
The shock didn’t stop there for Caps fans or anyone watching for that matter as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin tallied assists to Bill Guerin and Kris Letang respectively within the first two and a half minutes of the second period to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Such an lopsided score was not expected considering 5 of the six games in this series had been decided by one goal and three games were decided in overtime.
Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau pulled goaltender Simeon Varlamov in favor of Jose Theodore, who had been yanked following game one of the postseason against the New York Rangers. Varlamov had his worst performance in what has been an overall outstanding postseason showing for the 21-year old. His benching essentially summarized how the whole night went for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.
Just over six minutes later, Jordan Staal deflected a pass from Miroslav Satan to give the Penguins an unanticipated 5-0 lead. Alex Ovechkin gave the Capitals their first score with under two minutes to go with an easy steal from Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was attempting to control the puck behind the net. Ovechkin simply stole the puck and wrapped it around the post for a simple empty-netter.
The third period started out on a symbolic note when Brooks Laich was penalized four minutes for high-sticking Crosby just 26 seconds in. It didn’t get any better for the Capitals as a team. About two minutes later, Ovechkin was knocked off of his feet on an errant pass from defenseman Mike Green. Green, who had a record-setting year offensively, has been virtually invisibly in both of Washington’s postseason series and played only 43 seconds in the final period. As Ovechkin slid on the ground after trying to control the puck, Crosby broke away on his own and notched his second score of the night. Laich scored his third goal to make it 6-2 but that was as close as the Capitals would get.
Large groups of fans began to trickle out around the seven minute mark, unpleased with what they had just witnessed. For the fans that remained, the last two minutes were spent on their feet, applauding, cheering and saluting for the team that had shown them arguably the most memorable season in franchise history. After the ceremonial series-ending opposition handshake, the Capitals players stood on the ice, admiring the crowd while raising their sticks in the air in appreciation for a season filled with energy and support.