WASHINGTON -- Much like he did eight years ago in another Game 7 in Washington in another time, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury raised his game for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they needed it most. Now, because of it, the reigning Stanley Cup champions' repeat hopes remain alive.
The Penguins have done it again, eliminating the Washington Capitals from the playoffs by delivering a crushing 2-0 win in Game 7 behind the 29 saves from Fleury. With the win, the Penguins advance to the Eastern Conference finals to take on the Ottawa Senators.
How it happened: The Capitals came out flying but Fleury was up to the challenge while his teammates found their legs. As the Capitals buzzed their way to a couple close calls, it was a play by the Penguins' Jake Guentzel that raised the tension in Verizon Center by several notches. His patience with the puck in finding Bryan Rust for the first goal of the game in the second period revealed the kind of hockey sense that has made him a great linemate for Sidney Crosby. A dominant third period from the Penguins sealed it.
Crosby vs. Ovechkin: This was the most noticeable game for Crosby since his return for the concussion in Game 5. He earned an assist on Rust's goal to open the scoring and was part of several scoring chances, including a third-period open look on Holtby that was thwarted by a diving effort from the Capitals goalie. This game wasn't Ovechkin's best effort. The first goal came shortly after he was flattened by Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin. The second Penguins goal came when he wasn't able to clear the zone on a pass from Kevin Shattenkirk along the wall. He had a point-blank scoring chance that Fleury was able to deny in the second period. It's a disappointing finish for the Capitals star.
What's next: For the Capitals, it's another offseason of soul searching and tough decisions for management, the last thing this group wanted. For the Penguins, they head to another Eastern Conference finals. It's an amazing accomplishment for an injury-riddled team being held together by tape along with the pride and will of a champion.