Pittsburgh is in trouble.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got frozen out by the Washington Capitals 6-3 in Game 5 as Washington scored four unanswered goals in the third period.
Braden Holtby played out of his mind for the Capitals as he stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced including in the second period where he was the best Capital on the ice. Washington now has a chance to move on to the third round, lift their "curse," and beat their rival in a series-clinching game.
A hectic first leads to a Caps lead
The first was a fast-paced opening 20 minutes that saw the Caps end the first with the lead in Game 5. Both teams came out flying up and down the ice as Pittsburgh grabbed the lead first.
Just 2:23 in, the Pens' Jamie Oleksiak scored his first goal of these playoffs as his rocket of a shot from the blue line directed off of Brooks Orpik and into the net. After a fast few opening minutes, the Capitals were staring at a 1-0 deficit.
The Capitals had the advantage in shots through the first seven minutes, 8-2, and as both powerplays managed very little offensively, it felt like it would be the night of the goalie. But, as Matt Murray was holding strong, the Penguins gave up a dumb penalty.
Dominik Simon went to the box for tripping giving the Caps the perfect opportunity. With 2:49 left in the first, John Carlson scored his third goal of the playoffs on a slapper to tie the game at one just seconds into their second power play of the night. But, it wouldn't stop there for the Caps.
Just 33 seconds later, Brett Connolly beat Matt Murray five-hole to give the Caps their first lead of the game with a little over a minute remaining in the second. Connolly got set up cleanly in the slot and he just straight up beat Murray.
The first period would end with both teams heading to the locker room with a 2-1 Capitals lead.
The second was all Penguins
The second period was completely dominated by the Pittsburgh Penguins as they outshot Washington, got more scoring chances, and dominated both ends of the ice. Washington looked overmatched and they weren't able to muster up much offense as the Penguins took control.
After not converting on their last three power plays, the fourth time was the charm for the Penguins. Alex Ovechkin, who was having a much better game from his poor performance in Game 4, was sent to the box for slashing and Pittsburgh made them pay.
After some beautiful passing on the Pittsburgh man-advantage, Phil Kessel was able to bank it off of Sidney Crosby's body to tie the game. Holtby wasn't able to stop it and with 15:17 left, the game was all knotted at two.
After a crazy back and forth sequence where both teams had fantastic chances that were turned away, the Capitals were assessed another penalty this time as Devante Smith-Pelly headed to the box for tripping.
With 12:15 left in the second, the Penguins continued their dominance and took their second lead of the game. Just three short minutes after the Penguins last scored on their power play, they did it again as Patric Hornqvist collected his own rebound and jammed it past Braden Holtby to give the Penguins the 3-2 lead.
The Washington Capitals tried to fight back against the Pittsburgh Penguins' onslaught by switching up their lines, but there wasn't anything to be done. At the 4:38 mark of the second, Pittsburgh had a 29-17 advantage in shots and when the second was over, they outshot Washington 18-5 in the period.
Braden Holtby was huge for the Caps in the second stopping 16 of the 18 shots he faced.
Both teams would leave the ice with a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead, and after the way Pittsburgh dominated, it seemed all but certain that the Penguins would have the opportunity again to end the Capitals' season.
Not so fast says Washington
The third period was an absolutely fantastic period for the Washington Capitals and their fans. It showed that this year is different and it may truly be the Caps' year as they scored four unanswered goals in the period and Holtby truly stood on his head.
Pittsburgh never scored and it was all Caps.
Just 52 seconds into the closing frame, Evgeny Kuznetsov knotted the game at three for the Capitals and started Pittsburgh's implosion. Kuznetsov received a long lead pass from Jakub Vrana, (who had one hell of a game), that led to him getting behind all of the Penguins on the ice and putting the puck through Matt Murray's legs to tie the game at three.
Washington completely changed the narrative of the game as they came out flying and had the first four shots in the period. They were getting good chances and shutting down the Penguins on offense.
One big loss for them tonight though was Nicklas Backstrom who left the bench area at around the 15-minute mark and never returned to the game.
The whistles were put away for basically all of the third period as neither team was called for a penalty in the period. Washington ended up calming down a bit, but Pittsburgh wasn't able to take advantage as both teams seemed out of sync and weren't able to generate much offense.
Washington started to apply some pressure and that's when the floodgates opened. Jakub Vrana gave the Capitals the lead with 4:38 left after Holtby made an absolutely ridiculous stop on a Pittsburgh rush down the ice that led to a Washington Capitals' rush.
Alex Ovechkin set up Jakub Vrana close to Murray by dropping the puck backward off Murray's pads onto Vrana's stick who then put it in the empty net because Murray was pulled out of position by Ovechkin. This gave Washington a 4-3 lead.
With just around two minutes left, Pittsburgh pulled their goalie. Olli Maatta missed an absolutely amazing chance by shooting the puck wide as Holtby had no chance to make the save.
With their goalie pulled, Phil Kessel tried to make some things happen but he got more than he bargained for and turned the puck over to T.J. Oshie who had nothing but open ice in front of him to put the puck in the empty net to give Washington the 5-3 lead with 1:31 left in the game.
Washington was now holding onto a two-goal lead which is one of the scariest leads in all of hockey. Things started to get chippy between the two teams with about 45 seconds left, but nothing came of it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were hoping that their goalie pulled would spark a comeback but alas... it would not. With 5.4 seconds left showing on the clock, Lars Eller got in on the action to score on the empty netter and give Washington the 6-3 lead with a chance to wrap up the series and advance to their first-ever Conference Final.
In that closing period, Washington scored four unanswered goals and Pittsburgh looked to be completely outplayed after having a very controlling and dominate second.
Both goalies were exceptional in the win but Holtby was truly great for the Caps. He really provided the ammo necessary for the win and kept the Washington Capitals relevant in the game.
Teams that win Game 5 end up winning the series 79% of the time, but Washington is also 0-6 in clinching games to advance to a Conference Final. Game 6 will be about how Pittsburgh responds to their defeat and if Washington can truly once and for all get this monkey off of their back and advance to the franchise's first ever Conference Final.
Game 6 will be on Monday, May 7th, at 7 P.M. E.T. in Pittsburgh.
Do you think the Caps close it on Monday or do you think Pittsburgh forces a Game 7? Tell me what you think in the comments below!