Penguins continue mastery of Capitals, advance to Eastern Conference final

WASHINGTON — One was a Detroit Red Wings fan at the time, not long before that becoming a licensed driver. The other was on the ice, already well-established as a franchise cornerstone, thwarting an Alex Ovechkin at 3:01 of the first period to portend doom for the Capitals.

Despite coming at this delightfully hilarious rivalry from vastly different angles, Bryan Rust and Marc-Andre Fleury combined to torture the Capitals once again.

Rust scored the game-winning goal in the second period, Fleury stopped all 29 shots he faced, and the Penguins left Verizon Center on Wednesday with a 2-0 win in Game 7 and a trip to the Eastern Conference final ahead.

Not to mention a serious complex left in their tracks, one so pronounced that the Washington Capitals might as well become the Washington Generals whenever these two meet in the postseason.

Now, the Penguins will host the Ottawa Senators in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the series likely to start Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.

In Washington, the pain of playoff failures has never hurt more. The Penguins and Capitals have now met 10 times in the postseason. The Penguins have won nine times.

The Capitals, who haven’t been past this point since 1998, have lost seven of 10 Game 7s during the Ovechkin Era.

The Penguins, meanwhile, improved to 6-0 in Game 7s on the road and 4-0 all-time in Game 7s against Washington.

Having Rust and Fleury play the two biggest parts provides another interesting twist to this story.

Rust has been a proven playoff performer, now with eight goals in 12 career elimination games. The problem was that he hadn’t recorded a point in this series until Wednesday.

Fleury has had his share of playoff meltdowns and entered these playoffs as the Penguins’ backup goaltender.

On a night where the guy who was supposed to start, Matt Murray, finally was healthy enough to dress, Fleury had his best game of the playoffs, with Murray watching as his backup.

Instead of his stop of Ovechkin on a breakaway back in 2009, Fleury’s marquee save in this one came on a one-time attempt from Ovechkin in the slot at 16:08 of the second period.

The moment after might be the lasting memory of this game and series, too: Fleury massaging the shaft of his stick, an ear-to-ear smile easily visible through his mask.

With the Penguins trying to add to their lead, Patric Hornqvist made it 2-0 at 4:14 of the third period.

Justin Schultz started the sequence by stepping up on Ovechkin and stopping him from getting the puck out. Hornqvist backhanded a shot that went through Nate Schmidt’s legs and beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby blocker side.

The goals were great, but Game 7 saw an improved process for the Penguins, something that could bode well for next round.

Coach Mike Sullivan spent much of Tuesday’s practice trying to reinforce the Penguins’ team concept.

They weren’t perfect Wednesday, but their breakouts were much, much cleaner in Game 7, and it results with substantially more sustained zone time.

That zone time finally got a tangible reward at 8:49 of the second period, when Rust roofed a top shelf setup from Jake Guentzel, who waited an extra tick for a passing lane to open up.

An underrated part of the sequence was Ian Cole’s keep-in. That sends the puck to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby slides a pass to Guentzel, who earlier on the play was knocked down by Matt Niskanen.

The save of the period — or probably the series — was up next. Tom Wilson slid a perfect pass to Ovechkin in the slot.

It looked like it hit Fleury’s blocker, but it was actually the shaft of his stick. And it wasn’t the only missed opportunity for the Capitals in the middle period.

T.J. Oshie missed an open net. Nicklas Backstrom had Fleury down. His shot, however, caromed off the outside of the post.

The first period ended in a 0-0 tie but with several notable improvements. In addition to better breakouts, Penguins defenseman were more aggressive in the offensive zone.

Sidney Crosby had a scoring chance late but shot it into Holtby’s chest. Crosby dropped a pass to Rust for a chance at 15:07. About a half-minute later, Conor Sheary fed Hornqvist in tight.

Fleury was sharp from the outset, despite hearing derisive “Fleury” chants 39 seconds into this one.

His best work came on a two-save sequence late, actually as the Penguins were on the power play. Lars Eller had threw a rebound at the net, and Matt Niskanen had a clear shooting lane from the point.

Former Penguin Daniel Winnik had a glorious opportunity, the puck banking off the wall and allowing Winnik to win a footrace with Chad Ruhwedel, but Winnik lost when he shot went wide left.


(c)2017 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Just Posted

BREAKING: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

Saddle up Red Deer, the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Canada is coming… Continue reading

Veterans’ Park barrier key to pedestrian safety, says Red Deer traffic engineer

The recently roughed-up concrete barrier in front of Veterans’ Park has seen… Continue reading

Man accused of home invasion in court

Victim was shot and cut with machete in September 2017 attack

Suspect accused of fleeing police in court

RCMP fired shots twice while trying to arrest three suspects in October 2017 chase

WATCH: Rebels play floor hockey with Annie L. Gaetz students

The Rebels may be on a losing streak but they were definitely… Continue reading

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye welcome baby girl

NEW YORK — It’s a girl for Kim Kardashian West and her… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month