Capitals give Game 6, series to Panthers


There’s an old saying that you can win in the jaws of defeat, but for the Washington Capitals, it was win in the jaws of victory three times in a row. A miss in an empty net, a three-goal lead and a ping on the post. It was those three things that dropped the Capitals in the first round for the fourth straight year, but this time in six games with a 4-3 overtime loss.

The first period was scoreless, but the Caps came out physically like they did in 2018 against the Tampa Bay Lightning as they faced elimination. They had a total of 16 hits in the first 20 minutes, including some fun Alex Ovechkin. They outshot the Panthers 13-8.

At 3:44, the Caps struck first as Nic Dowd put one just in front of the net after his own rebound. Garnet Hathaway and Johan Larsson had the assists. Ryan Lomberg tied the game at 6:13 to make it 1-1 after 40. The Panthers led 14-9 in the second period.

The Caps took the lead at 1:37 on a deflected goal by Nicklas Backstrom on a Justin Schultz shot. Trevor van Riemsdyk got the second assist. It was Backstrom’s second in the playoffs.

At 8:18 a.m. Claude Giroux tied the game and at 2:17 p.m. Aleksander Barkov gave them the lead. The atmosphere at Capital One Arena then became nervous. They played “Unleash the Fury” on the video board and fans shouted it and waved their napkins bearing that statement in hopes of giving the Caps a jolt. They got it once they had a chance on the power play and then they fired Ilya Samsonov to the empty net.

Gustav Forsling was called for tripping Backstrom, giving the Caps the lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov shot the puck. Anthony Mantha then made a nice rebounding game amid the chaos in front of the net. TJ Oshie was on the other end of the net to score his sixth of the playoffs to tie with 1:03 remaining.

Extra time on Friday the 13th. What could go wrong?

The puck rolled nonchalantly across the ice. Martin Fehervary tried to make it work at John Carlson, but Carlson couldn’t catch the puck and the Caps were doomed. Carter Verhaeghe scored at 2:46 to end the Capitals’ season early yet again.

Backstrom put it simply after the game:

“We basically gave them the series.”

He is right. The Caps had every chance to win Game 4, but Garnet Hathaway missed the empty net. They had every chance to win Game 5, but they squandered a 3-0 lead against the most dangerous offensive team.

While this was a series the Caps were unsuccessful in, it’s not a playoff outing to hang their heads in. This team gave it their all. They did their best. They just didn’t get the rebounds this time and that’s what happens in the playoffs. The 2018, although close, got those rebounds.

Now the Caps head into another summer with questions. How much more open is the window for the kernel? How do they rejuvenate if possible?

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