It’s been a couple weeks since Nick Bonino of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored in overtime to eliminate the Washington Capitals from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The second round series was an epic battle between the hottest team in the league, the Penguins, and the team with the best record in the NHL, the Capitals.
Over the six-game series, the Penguins netted just one more goal than the Caps, outscoring them 16-15. Three of the games went to overtime. If a few more bounces went the Capitals’ way, they could be getting ready to host Game One of the Stanley Cup Final right now.
Instead, the Penguins came out on top in the series. Pittsburgh then defeated a depleted Tampa Bay Lightning team in the Eastern Conference Final.
While the Penguins were hot late in the regular-season, they struggled mightily before the new year. According to Evgeni Malkin, the win over the Capitals convinced the Pens they could win their second championship since 2009.
“We know we have great team,” Malkin said after Pittsburgh’s Game Seven win against Tampa Bay on Thursday. “We believe we can beat any team. We play against Washington and we beat them. After Washington, we have lot of confidence — everyone.”
Malkin wasn’t just speaking for himself.
“We knew that was going to be definitely a very challenging series for us,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said of the Capitals Sunday during the Stanley Cup Final Media Day. “They are such a good team. They were a good team throughout the regular-season. They have such dangerous players. For us to win those games and have success against them definitely gave us a lot of confidence after that series. We knew we had to play with that same way with that same urgency against Tampa Bay and we’ll be successful. I think that definitely helped us get confidence after beating Washington.”
Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr concurred with his teammates.
“That was definitely a big part of it,” Fehr said when asked if beating the Caps made the Penguins’ Cup hopes seem obtainable. “I mean, we knew that if we wanted a chance to win the Cup it was going to have to go through Washington the way they were playing. You never want to look past a series, but they were a good team.”
Justin K. Aller
Additional reporting by Renee Garces.
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