In the end, the Capitals did prolong their season — for two minutes 46 seconds into additional time. Then Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe took a feed from Claude Giroux, sliced throughout the mouth of the purpose and flipped the puck previous Ilya Samsonov for the series-clinching purpose. The 4-3 loss sealed the Capitals’ fourth straight exit within the first spherical of the playoffs since they gained the Stanley Cup in 2018.
The Capitals — regardless of T.J. Oshie’s equalizer with 1:03 left in regulation off a wild bouncing puck — now will decide up the items of one other postseason that fell wanting expectations.
Svrluga: After one other early playoff exit, the Capitals’ proud core faces exhausting questions
“I don’t assume the all-in side was fairly there within the final couple years,” Oshie mentioned in a subdued postgame. “This 12 months, I believe we have been extraordinarily near being one hundred pc everybody on board, and we let three video games get away from us.”
Solely moments earlier than Verhaeghe ended it along with his sixth purpose of the sequence, Capital One Area was rocking on the heels of Oshie’s power-play purpose. Anthony Mantha took a shot that hit the submit and careened out in entrance. The puck went straight to Oshie, who took two whacks at it earlier than the puck trickled in.
In a sport full of untamed momentum swings, issues had turned within the hosts’ favor. The Panthers, who gained the Presidents’ Trophy on the power of 29 comeback wins in the course of the common season, didn’t wilt. Twice, they trailed Friday evening. Every time they got here again.
“You see how we performed in opposition to the very best group within the common season,” captain Alex Ovechkin mentioned. “We have now it, however we simply blow it away. It’s on us. It’s on me, on [Nicklas Backstrom], on Osh, on [John Carlson]. It’s on all people.”
Solely moments earlier than Oshie scored, Aleksander Barkov put the Panthers up 3-2 with 5:43 left within the third, scoring off a rebound in entrance after the Capitals did not clear the puck.
Earlier than Oshie’s heroics, Backstrom seemed as if he was going to push Washington forward for good along with his purpose early within the third, however the Panthers answered as they did all sequence. Giroux tied the sport at 2 at 8:18 with a shot from the fitting circle earlier than Barkov’s purpose set the stage for much more drama.
Washington, which was with out Tom Wilson after his Sport 1 harm, dropped three straight to the Panthers to lose the first-round sequence 4 video games to 2. Florida will now play both the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Toronto Maple Leafs — these groups meet Saturday in a Sport 7 in Toronto — within the second spherical.
Washington practically went up 3-1 on this best-of-seven sequence after a deflating Sport 4 additional time loss during which ahead Garnet Hathaway barely missed what would have been a clinching empty-net purpose.
In Sport 5 again at FLA Dwell Area on Wednesday, the Capitals had an opportunity to go up 3-2 within the sequence after they jumped out to a 3-0 second-period lead. As an alternative, the Panthers scored 5 straight en path to a victory.
“We had plenty of time the place the sequence was in our fingers,” veteran defenseman Carlson mentioned. “And I believe that stings much more, particularly proper now.”
Samsonov was one among Washington’s finest gamers within the sequence, however he couldn’t make the saves he wanted to Friday evening.
In hindsight, one of many largest “ifs” of the sequence was whether or not the Capitals would have fared any otherwise in the event that they didn’t lose Wilson in Sport 1 with a lower-body harm. Might Wilson, who was having a profession offensive 12 months, have carried out something totally different to tilt the sequence within the Capitals’ favor?
The one ahead with a formidable displaying within the first spherical was Oshie, who had six targets within the sequence. Ovechkin solely had one purpose. He had no photographs on purpose within the opening 40 minutes and completed with one shot on purpose and 6 hits.
Nic Dowd scored the primary purpose of the evening at 3:44 of the second interval. His preliminary fast shot hit the crossbar and popped out in entrance. Dowd dived for the rebound, potting it previous Sergei Bobrovsky. For a short second, it seemed as if Washington had the momentum it wanted to push forward for a Sport 7.
However then, as has been their trademark this 12 months, the Panthers got here roaring again. Lower than three minutes later, Ryan Lomberg tied the sport at 1 on a rebound. It was Lomberg’s first purpose of the sequence.
Washington was engaged early — bodily from the drop of the puck because it recorded 26 hits within the first interval alone. It seemed as if the Capitals needed to set the tone from the outset, attempting to achieve puck possession early and sometimes.
Washington was rewarded with a few power-play probabilities within the first 40 minutes, however the unit seemed a bit misplaced and disorganized. The Panthers additionally had an opportunity on the person benefit within the first however mustered just one shot on purpose. Florida was 0 for two on the ability play in Sport 6 and completed 0 for 18 on the sequence.
“They’re a great hockey group that created plenty of offense for the whole 12 months,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette mentioned. “I assumed we did plenty of good issues tonight, plenty of the fitting issues, attempting to carry them at bay and nonetheless in a position to generate. We simply couldn’t get it carried out.”
The Capitals now head into an offseason stuffed with questions.
On the forefront is how they’ll deal with the goalie place transferring ahead and whether or not they’ll attempt to add youthful, speedier gamers to the ahead corps. Each Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are restricted free brokers. Washington has no big-name unrestricted free brokers to take care of this summer time — a stark distinction to final offseason when Ovechkin wanted a brand new contract.
As an alternative, the Capitals must make selections about which gamers they determine to put round their mainstays: Ovechkin, Backstrom and Carlson. Washington has remained dedicated to its veterans after its signings of Ovechkin and Backstrom previously two years, with no indicators of a direct rebuild.