The Washington Capitals staved off elimination in Game 6 by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. The Caps had their backs to the wall, and on Monday night, they fought like it.
Washington was able to beat Tampa Bay in large part due to their physicality and hustle. The Caps outhit Tampa Bay 39-19. Their hustle was exemplified on the Caps second goal of the game. Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call and Jay Beagle won a puck battle to get it back to Stephenson, who then found Devante Smith-Pelly alone in front who beat Andrei Vaselevskiy five-hole to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.
The Caps dominated Tampa Bay from the moment the puck dropped in the first period. Smith-Pelly told NBCSports after the game that Washington played a near perfect game.
DSP to NBC: "I would say that was pretty much a perfect game."
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) May 22, 2018
Braden Holtby, after perhaps being a liability in games three, four and five, proved why he is one of the best playoff goalies in the NHL, earning his first shutout of the season by stopping all of the 24 shots he faced.
After winning the previous seven playoff games in the nation’s capital, Game 6 was the first playoff game the Lightning lost in Washington. In addition, this is the first time the Bolts cannot win four in a row to eliminate DC. In 2003, the Caps went up 2-0 before losing four straight and in 2011, Tampa Bay swept Washington to eliminate the Capitals from playoff contention.
The Capitals have arguably the most tortured playoff past in NHL history. Whether it be losing in four overtimes in a Game 7 in the Easter Epic, having lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins many, many, many times, or having one of the best regular seasons in history, only to run into Jaroslav Halak. The list goes on and on.
On Wednesday night, the Caps have a chance to put all that to rest and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998. If they play like they did on Monday, there is no doubt in my mind that they will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.