As Evgeny Kuznetsov skated in on Penguins goalie Matt Murray with a step on the two defenders giving chase more than five minutes into overtime on Monday, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had just one thought.
“Please score,” a smiling Ovechkin, who was speaking for every Capitals fan and had sprung his countryman on the breakaway with a pass off a Pittsburgh turnover, told NBC Sports Network’s Pierre McGuire when asked what was going through his mind. “Just f—— please score.”
Kuznetsov freakin’ scored, through Murray’s five-hole, giving the Capitals a 2-1 win in Game 6 at PPG Paints Arena that clinched Washington’s first spot in the Eastern Conference finals since 1998.
Ovechkin, who was 0-6 in games that would’ve advanced the Capitals to the third round before Monday, had a heck of a series. He scored the game-winner 67 seconds into Game 3, assisted on Jakub Vrana’s game-winner with less than five minutes to play in Game 5 and earned the primary assist on Kuznetsov’s goal Monday that will join Dale Hunter’s overtime winner against Philadelphia in 1988 and Joe Juneau’s overtime winner against Buffalo in 1998 among the greatest in Capitals playoff history.
“So [many] emotions right now,” Ovechkin told McGuire. “It’s an emotional time for us, for fans, for organization. … Nobody was believing in us this year. We beat the Stanley Cup champions and we move forward.”
Kuznetsov celebrated his seventh goal of the playoffs with his familiar bird walk, which he brought out of retirement after scoring in Game 5 because, well, his daughter loves it.
Longtime Capitals play-by-play man John Walton’s call of Kuznetsov’s game-winner was 20 years in the making.
“Poke-check away and now the counter, hear come the Caps,” Walton said as Sidney Crosby turned the puck over in the neutral zone. “Kuznetsov gets loose, Evgeny coming down the middle, a shot and it comes over — he scores! He scores! Evgeny Kuznetsov wins it for Washington. It’s off to the third round! The demons have been exorcised! Good morning, good afternoon, and good night, Pittsburgh! We’re going to Tampa Bay! The Capitals have done it!”
“All of the heartache,” Walton continued. “All of the demons. The two-time defending champions are going home, and the Capitals are moving on for the first time in 20 years to the Eastern Conference finals. Oh baby, what a moment here in Pittsburgh.”
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