Breakdown: Washington Capitals Dismantle Pittsburgh Penguins to Force Game 7

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PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 08: Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) celebrates his goal with teammates during the third period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round in the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 8, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. The Washington Capitals avoided elimination with a 5-2 win to even the series 3-3. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals have forced themselves towards the edge of history as they swirled around the Pittsburgh Penguins to net five tallies tonight. How did the Penguins go from dominant to downtrodden despite their valiant captain’s return? The answer lies in desperation.

Washington Capitals Dismantle Pittsburgh Penguins to Force Game 7

Marc Andre-Fleury is Floundering

An .808 save percentage spelled heartbreak for Marc-Andre Fleury tonight as he let five pucks slip by on home ice. Letting in four in Sunday’s contest as well, Fleury’s save percentage has seen a dip that the Penguins simply cannot afford. The sweet spot for the Caps? Glove side. Both John Carlson and Andre Burakovsky solved that riddle in the third period, firing up high for two back-to-back biscuits in the basket. With Matthew Murray still sidelined, their AHL emergency option, Tristan Jarry would be ill prepared for the flying Caps. Jarry’s one game in the 2016-17 season yielded a .880 save percentage, 3.05 GAA and loss against the New York Rangers. Coach Mike Sullivan will be backed into a corner if Fleury can’t come up with the extra save in Wednesday’s game seven.

Not So Regal Return

Pens fans across the nation rejoiced hearing Sidney Crosby would be back for Game 5. However, his return hasn’t resulted in a win and took away needed fire from his teammates. Much of game four’s motivation was driven by the loss the Penguins longtime leader. Crosby registered one assist in game five and one in game six. He was a -1 tonight with 19:57 of ice time. No doubt the rushed return of Crosby hasn’t aided the Pens in the way they expected and the hit he took from John Carlson couldn’t have helped his health. Best choice would have been to bench him till round three, if they made it.

Missing: Penguins Offense

If this was the 1950s, we’d be seeing Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino’s faces plastered on milk cartons in black and white. Hagelin has one point in the last five games as does Bonino. Both were instrumental in the Penguins 2015-16 Stanley Cup run but have been greatly limited this post-season. Tonight, neither registered a point nor did much of anything. In fact, the entire Pens offense was MIA at the PPG Paints Arena tonight. After 40 minutes, the Pens were outshot 16-8, registering a measly three shots in the first and five in the second. Desperation is the name of the game and that was absent in the Pens squad tonight spare the last four minutes of play. Shout out to the three spectators left to cheer as Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin got the Pens on the board.

Caps Eager to Flip the Script

“The past is what it is. We can’t change it but we can change our future,” said head coach, Barry Trotz before today’s game in Pittsburgh.

Washington is sick of the choke jokes.

Marquee names such as Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas BackstromTom Wilson and Vezina-winner Braden Holtby, have given the Caps little to brag about in post-season. The President’s Trophy winners of 2015-16 and 2016-17 have never reached the third round of the playoffs in franchise history. However, with the Penguins collapsing, the Caps chance at reaching the Eastern Conference final is more vibrant than ever. Out-shooting the Penguins 26-18 tonight and 32-22 last Saturday, the Caps are firing on all cylinders. Game seven’s home ice advantage will also give the Capitals a welcome boost of encouragement as their fans are equally desperate to watch a change in NHL history.

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