Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime to secure a 4-3 win and send the Penguins to the East final for the first time since 2013.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to the Eastern Conference final, thanks mostly to some unsung heroes. The Penguins eliminated the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in a roller-coaster Game 6.
Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into overtime to secure a 4-3 win and send the Penguins to the East final for the first time since 2013, when they were swept by the Boston Bruins.
Bonino has been traded three times in his six-year career, yet Tuesday’s winner was his third career playoff overtime goal. He banged in a rebound off a Carl Hagelin shot after he was fed in the slot by Phil Kessel.
All three players in on the overtime winner are in their first season with the Penguins and were something of castoffs in their former homes. Kessel scored two goals earlier in the game and the line combined for seven points. Not on the scoresheet in Game 6? Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
But it took one of the most bizarre and entertaining games in playoff history to get to the point where Bonino could play the hero.
The Penguins built a 3-0 lead before the game was even half over. The game and series appeared to have changed in the second period when Brooks Orpik was given a four-minute double minor for high sticking. Kessel and Hagelin scored 33 seconds apart and the Penguins seemed on their way to an easy win.
But the Capitals rallied. T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams scored to give the Capitals life, then something happened that had never happened before in playoff history.
The Penguins took three consecutive delay of game penalties for sending the puck over the glass in their own zone. That resulted in long back-to-back 5-on-3 advantages that the Capitals capitalized on. John Carlson scored to tie it, and send the game to overtime.
With all the momentum shifting toward the Capitals, it seemed like the series was destined for Game 7. That feeling grew when Caps center Jay Beagle made a miraculous, desperation, diving save behind Braden Holtby in overtime.
— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 11, 2016
That puck somehow staying out gave the Capitals another shot at extending the series, but Bonino socred to end it minutes later.
The last time the Penguins met the Capitals in the playoffs was a second-round matchup in 2009, which the Penguins won in seven games en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
This loss has to be another major disappointment for the Capitals. They won the Presidents’ Trophy with ease and appeared poised to finally have a playoff breakthrough. But instead, they matched up with a red-hit Penguins team.
A lot will be written about Alex Ovechkin and his perceived post-season failures. But this loss certainly isn’t on him. Ovechkin was excellent in the series, picking up seven points in six games. This was a case of two evenly matched teams playing close games, and someone has to lose.
The Penguins will face the Tampa Bay Lightning with a trip to the Stanley Cup final on the line.