It’s been a long time coming.
The Washington Capitals finally beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, winning in six games with a 2-1 overtime victory Monday night. Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy three times in the Alex Ovechkin era, Monday marked the first time the Capitals beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs during that span. Ovechkin was previously 0-3 against Pittsburgh for his career.
With the drought finally over, TSN.ca takes a look back at the past playoff series between the two clubs.
2009 – Penguins in seven
It was the playoff matchup everyone was waiting for.
For the first time in their careers, Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin were set to square off in a playoff series. They didn’t disappoint.
Crosby and Ovechkin each scored eight goals in the series and finished with 13 and 14 points, respectively.
With the series tied 3-3, the Pens blew the Capitals away 6-2 in Game 7 en route to a Stanley Cup, the first of Crosby’s career. In the decider against the Caps, Crosby had two goals and an assist.
“That’s one that was a big one in that [Stanley Cup] run,” Crosby said. “You go in hoping for the best, but never know what’s going to happen. We were able to pull it out on the road.”
2016 – Pittsburgh takes the rematch
It would be a long time before the Penguins and Capitals met again in the postseason. The Capitals came in as Presidents’ Trophy winners and got off to a convincing start on an overtime winner from T.J. Oshie in Game 1.
But things went south in a hurry.
The Penguins would take the next three games – all decided by one goal – and after Washington won Game 5, they would fall in Game 6 on an OT-winner from Nick Bonino.
"It's a missed opportunity and another game that's the last shot," Ovechkin said. "I'm proud of my team, proud of my teammates. I'm proud of this group no matter what happened, but, again, we lost in the second round, so it [stinks]."
2017 – Pens win third straight
Things looked like they were headed down the same path in the third Ovechkin-Crosby installment of Penguins and Capitals in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh won the first two games in Washington and would split the next two to take a 3-1 lead in the series. Facing elimination in Game 5, the Capitals scored three times in the first 10 minutes of the third period and would go on to win 5-2. After taking Game 6, it looked like this might be the time the Capitals knock off the Penguins.
But it wasn’t meant to be. In Game 7, Marc-Andre Fleury shut the door to give the Penguins a 2-0 victory.
"It was a long series against a good team," Fleury said. "They came hard at us till the end, and we're proud of the way we played tonight, and the way we handled the pressure and these guys over the series."
2018 – Finally
Washington said all season that this was a different story than in years past.
They were right.
Going into Game 6 up 3-2 without centre Nicklas Backstrom because of a right hand injury, the Caps found themselves deadlocked with the Penguins 1-1 heading into overtime on the road at PPG Paints Arena.
Just five minutes into the extra frame, the Penguins were unable to control the puck in the neutral zone, leading to an Evgeny Kuznetsov breakaway. Kuznetsov tucked one past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray to give Washington its first Eastern Conference Final berth in 20 seasons and just the third in the franchise’s history.
"It's so hard to move forward sometimes," head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. "It's always thrown in your face everywhere you turn. I know it's thrown in Ovi's face everywhere he turns and he's a great player in this league."
“It feels like something is over,” said Kuznetsov. “It’s pretty hard to speak.”
Washington will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Final. In three regular-season meetings, Tampa took the series with two wins out of three games. The last meeting was a 4-2 home loss on Feb. 20.