In the end, the Capitals did prolong their season — for two minutes 46 seconds into time beyond regulation. Then Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe took a feed from Claude Giroux, sliced throughout the mouth of the objective and flipped the puck previous Ilya Samsonov for the series-clinching objective. The 4-3 loss sealed the Capitals’ fourth straight exit within the first spherical of the playoffs since they received the Stanley Cup in 2018.
The Capitals — regardless of TJ Oshie’s equalizer with 1:03 left in regulation off a wild bouncing puck — now will choose up the items of one other postseason that fell wanting expectations.
Svrluga: After one other early playoff exit, the Capitals’ proud core faces arduous questions
“I do not 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 had been extraordinarily near being 100% everybody on board, and we let three video games get away from us.”
Solely moments earlier than Verhaeghe ended it together with his sixth objective of the collection, Capital One Area was rocking on the heels of Oshie’s power-play objective. 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 received the Presidents’ Trophy on the power of 29 comeback wins in the course of the common season, did not wilt. Twice, they trailed Friday night time. Every time they got here again.
“You see how we performed towards the perfect group within the common season,” captain Alex Ovechkin mentioned. “We now have 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 didn’t clear the puck.
Earlier than Oshie’s heroics, Backstrom regarded like he was going to push Washington forward for good together with his objective early within the third, however the Panthers answered, as they did all collection. Giroux tied the sport at 2 at 8:18 with a shot from the best circle earlier than Barkov’s objective set the stage for much more drama.
Washington, which was with out Tom Wilson after his Recreation 1 harm, dropped three straight to the Panthers to lose the first-round collection 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 Recreation 7 in Toronto — within the second spherical.
Washington practically went up three to 1 on this best-of-seven collection after a deflating Recreation 4 time beyond regulation loss during which ahead Garnet Hathaway barely missed what would have been a clinching empty-net objective.
In Recreation 5 again at FLA Stay Area on Wednesday, the Capitals had an opportunity to go up 3-2 within the collection after they jumped out to a 3-0 second-period lead. As a substitute, the Panthers scored 5 straight en path to a victory.
“We had numerous time the place the collection was in our palms,” veteran defenseman Carlson mentioned. “And I believe that stings much more, particularly proper now.”
Samsonov was one in every of Washington’s greatest gamers within the collection, however he could not make the saves he wanted to Friday night time.
In hindsight, one of many greatest “ifs” of the collection was whether or not the Capitals would have fared any in another way in the event that they did not lose Wilson in Recreation 1 with a lower-body harm. May Wilson, who was having a profession offensive 12 months, have accomplished something totally different to tilt the collection within the Capitals’ favor?
The one ahead with a powerful exhibiting within the first spherical was Oshie, who had six objectives within the collection. Ovechkin solely had one objective. He had no pictures on objective within the opening 40 minutes and completed with one shot on objective and 6 hits.
Nic Dowd scored the primary objective of the night time 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 regarded like Washington had the momentum it wanted to push forward for a Recreation 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 objective of the collection.
Washington was engaged early — bodily from the drop of the puck because it recorded 26 hits within the first interval alone. It regarded just like the Capitals wished to set the tone from the outset, attempting to realize puck possession early and sometimes.
Washington was rewarded with a pair power-play possibilities within the first 40 minutes, however the unit regarded a bit misplaced and disorganized. The Panthers additionally had an opportunity on the person benefit within the first however solely mustered one shot on objective. Florida was 0 for two on the ability play in Recreation 6 and completed 0 for 18 on the collection.
“They seem to be a good hockey group that created numerous offense for all the 12 months,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette mentioned. “I believed we did numerous good issues tonight, numerous the best issues, attempting to carry them at bay and nonetheless in a position to generate. We simply could not get it accomplished.”
The Capitals now head into an offseason stuffed with questions.
On the forefront is how they may deal with the goalie place transferring ahead and whether or not they may 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 cope with this summer time — a stark distinction to final offseason when Ovechkin wanted a brand new contract.
As a substitute, the Capitals should 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 within the final two years, with no indicators of a direct rebuild.