Penguins need to win or else

Caps end Penguins' hex, win series in OT

The Capitals finally got over the hump Monday night, as Evgeny Kuznetsov buried an overtime victor in Game 6 of Washington's second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Penguins to lift his team to its first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 1998. The Capitals won the series and will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference final series.

Washington is in the Eastern Conference finals for just the third times in team history, the last being in 1997-98 when it beat the Buffalo Sabres and then lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. The goal was set up by Alex Ovechkin in transition. The victor moves on to meet the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final. Nobody wants to believe in us. All the goals in the world - and the star forward is at over 600 and counting now - couldn't take the sting away from the endless cycle of postseason runs that ended far too soon. "I'm just happy right now". But a talented cast overcame the three-game suspension of winger Tom Wilson, the upper-body injury to center Nicklas Backstrom and a rookie-laden lineup to hand the Penguins their first playoff defeat in 10 series.

The Penguins held a one-goal lead entering the third period of Games 3, 4 and 5. Here's a look at how the keys to the series played out for both teams.

After the glorious sighs of relief, the locker-room cheers and the occasional curse word, the Washington Capitals packed their equipment into bags, the start of a process for which the franchise has been waiting 20 years: preparing for the Eastern Conference finals.

Despite some incredible play from Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel during this series, the Penguins couldn't best their rivals this time around.

The Penguins, by contrast, have been impossible to finish off since head coach Mike Sullivan took over in December 2015.

"It's pretty simple, we win we keep playing", Nashville forward Filip Forsberg said. That's all you can ask.

Washington's special teams were once again very good in their second-round series.

The fourth-line left wing hadn't scored a point in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as secondary scoring served as startling statistic that shadowed the Penguins forwards. Kuznetsov, who scored the overtime game-winning goal, thought he might have trouble sleeping after the game.

Each team also found a bunch of scoring opportunities in the third period, but no one could convert until Kuznetsov's overtime goal.

"As a group, we wanted to give our city more, but more doesn't mean a conference final".

"We work hard every game", Malkin said. "Just go out there and lay it out there and see how it goes".

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