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Greatest Games: Washington Capitals – To Kill A Walking Bird

The Capitals’ playoff hopes were dashed by the Penguins time after time after time. But not this time.

No. 1 – May 7, 2018 – Washington 2, Pittsburgh 1 (OT)

If the Capitals were to finally make a deep post-season run, it seemed fitting they would go through Pittsburgh. No team had given Washington more playoff heartache. In the Alex Ovechkin era alone, the higher-seeded Caps fell to the Penguins in Round 2 in 2009, 2016 and 2017. Pittsburgh won the Cup all three years. “It’s on us to change that narrative,” said defenseman Matt Niskanen.

That opportunity came in Game 6 as the Capitals skated into Pittsburgh with a 3-2 series lead. Washington, though, was a shorthanded bunch. Forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky were injured, Tom Wilson suspended.

With a berth in the conference final at stake, Washington dressed a playoff franchise-record five rookies, including two making their NHL post-season debuts – an Australian winger named Nathan Walker among them. Naturally, he set up fourth-liner Alex Chiasson in the second period to give Washington a 1-0 lead. The secondary scoring was welcome, but the stalwarts eventually secured the 2-1 win.

Just over five minutes into OT, Ovechkin pokechecked the puck from Sidney Crosby at the Washington blueline. He sprung Evgeny Kuznetsov, who split the defense and beat Matt Murray on a breakaway. Kuznetsov gave them ‘The Bird’ – his customary celebration. The demons had been exorcised.

Ovechkin looked to the heavens and gave an exaggerated sigh of relief. It took 13 seasons and 10 trips to the playoffs, but Ovechkin was off to the East final. “Thank God this happened,” he said. One month after Kuznetsov’s OT goal, the Caps were champs.

No. 2 – April 16, 1988 – Washington 5, Philadelphia 4 (OT)
Franchise legend Dale Hunter beat goalie Ron Hextall in overtime as the Capitals erased a 3-1 series deficit and 3-0 hole in Game 7.

No. 3 – Feb. 7, 2010 – Washington 5, Pittsburgh 4 (OT)
The Capitals rallied from a 4-1 disadvantage to secure a franchise-record 14th straight victory, with Alex Ovechkin scoring a hat trick for good measure.

GREATEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE OF ALL-TIME

Alex Ovechkin
Jan. 31, 2008 – Capitals 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)
Three weeks after signing a record 13-year, $124-million contract, Ovechkin looked like a bargain.

In what stands as the best game of his career, Ovechkin scored four goals, including the overtime-winner, and added an assist versus Montreal. Ovechkin was also a human pinata, taking a high stick to the face and later a puck to the mouth, both of which required stitches. He also broke his nose. But he didn’t miss a shift, finishing with a game-high five hits and scoring in all four periods. It was a signature moment during his first MVP campaign.

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