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Penguins eliminated after Kuznetsov sinks game winner in OT

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Evgeny Kuznetsov corralled a pass from Alex Ovechkin at center ice, then breezed past Jamie Oleksiak and Kris Letang, finishing through the five hole of Matt Murray in overtime, to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 win in Game 6, and the series clincher Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

“We haven't tasted this in a long time,” explained a distraught Mike Sullivan after the game.

 

The feeling is palpable for the city of Pittsburgh tonight, as it took 307 games in 1,109 days to finally eliminate the Penguins from Stanley Cup contention, eliminating the hopes of a three-peat.

 

“It's an unbelievable feeling to get it done,” said Ovechkin, who finished with the assist on Kuznetsov's game-winner with 5:27 left in the overtime period, which lifted the Caps to a 2-1 final score.

 

“If you give them opportunities, they're going to score,” said Matt Murray of the Capitals' first line, who scored the goal to end the Pens' season. “That's a pretty good line- probably one of the best in the league, and they showed why they are a dangerous group. I think we gave them too many chances, and they're going to get something when they have good looks like that.”

 

“There's some great champions in that other room,” explained a relieved Barry Trotz about the team he eliminated. “What they've done and accomplished in the last couple of years has been remarkable.”

 

The loss marked the first playoff series loss for Mike Sullivan, who had nine-straight under his belt before Monday.

 

“I think sometimes we learn more from our failures than from our successes,” said Sullivan. “I think this group knows how hard it is to play in the playoffs.”

 

“It's not a great feeling, obviously,” said Sidney Crosby, who finished with 21 points on nine goals this postseason. “Overtime could have went either way tonight. With the experience with a lot of guys that we have that have gone through it, yeah, I think we felt like that was an opportunity.”

 

Crosby, alongside Brian Dumoulin, assisted Kris Letang on a blue line slapper that was redirected off the stick of Chandler Stephenson and past the glove of Braden Holtby for the Pens' lone goal of the night, midway through the second period.

 

The game-tying goal answered a fourth line opening score from the Caps' Alex Chiasson, who punched surgically punched one under the glove of Murray and just past the post just two minutes into the second period.

 

“Once you're in it, the important thing is to get better with every game, and definitely coming off the last couple of games we had, I thought we were playing some good hockey. Tonight, probably wasn't one of our better games in the series, still it was a tight game both ways and we had our chances.”

 

Murray and Holtby each pitched brilliant efforts on both sides of the ice, with Holtby's 21 stops on 22 shots besting Murray's 28 saves off 30 shots.

 

“Empty, I guess, would be a good word,” described Murray on his feeling after the game. “You know, we battled right to the end and we left it all on the ice, and that's all we could do, but it's tough, obviously.”

 

“He's a competitor, what else can I say about him,” said Sullivan of Murray. “He's been through a lot of adversity this year, and he's just a real good person that loves this team and he battles. I think it's the highest compliment you can give a player, and I think Matt's one of those guys.”

 

The Penguins had their best chance to lift their goaltender's solid performance with what seemed to be a game-winner off the stick of Tom Kuhnhackl just minutes into overtime, but the puck clipped the right post, bouncing away from the net.

 

“I didn't even see it at first,” said Kuhnhackl of the shot, “I just shot it as quick as I could and tried to use (Dumoulin) as a screener. I just kind of heard the reaction of the crowd and saw it on the jumbotron that it had hit the post. Obviously, it's unfortunate.”

 

The Capitals, who played without front line center Nicklas Backstrom, who was a game-time scratch due to an unspecified injury, grabbed their first series win over Pittsburgh since 1994, winning just their second series in the last 11 played between the two.

 

“It's not fun,” said Evgeni Malkin of the sour feeling of being eliminated. “We want to go back [to Washington] and play Game 7. We lost focus tonight, but [Washington] played hard for this. Last two years, we played unbelievable. Three years, it's so hard. We're tired too.”

 

AFTER THE MONEYLINE

 

Game 6 closing odds:

Washington +180
Pittsburgh -200

O/U 6 goals

The total went under for 4 of the 6 games played.

 

Series (to-win) odds:

Washington +135
Pittsburgh -130

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