This was to finally be the year that the NHL’s Washington Capitals put to rest all of the past disappointment, playoff flameouts and underachievement.
The team was often dominant as it racked up 118 points during the regular season but despite top seeding, struggled to put away the underdog Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
While the Caps ultimately prevailed against the Leafs, they quickly found themselves in an 0-2 hole against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and faced a must-win game three in a hostile building filled with a raucous crowd.
But with a little luck as well as a cheap shot that knocked Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby out of the game early, the Caps managed to fend off certain doom with a 3-2 win in overtime.
Sidney Crosby went to the locker room, Matt Niskanen got a five-minute major and game misconduct. pic.twitter.com/YgoTbUEMWt
— SI NHL (@SI_NHL) May 1, 2017
While it was Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen who delivered the headshot that took out Crosby, some dirty stick work by Alexander Ovechkin contributed to the play that may end up sinking Pittsburgh. Ovechkin may pour in goals by the bunch but he is also known for his share of dirty play and playoff flops. Taking out Crosby certainly improves his chances at wiping the postseason slate clean.
Whether it was an intentional dirty trick is open to perception. One Pittsburgh sportswriter is demanding that Ovechkin be suspended for his role in the injury producing play.
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) May 2, 2017
It would be hard to see the league disciplining Ovechkin who is one of its biggest stars for his role in the play but Matt Niskanen may face a suspension of some sort. Players have been sidelined for less and taking out the likely MVP is a big no-no. Perhaps the league will find Niskanen’s ejection for the hit to be sufficient punishment which would be decried by the Penguins and their fans.
The loss of Crosby for an extended period of time could be a killer for the Pens and the break that the Capitals need to make it to the finals and a shot at the cup.
Game four is scheduled for Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. It is unknown whether Crosby will be able to suit up.