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The Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Pittsburgh Penguins vs. The Washington Capitals

The playoff rivalry between Pittsburgh and Washington is intense because since 1994, the two teams have met nine times and counting last year, Pittsburgh has won eight of those series. One could say that the Pens own the Caps and frankly, that would be a truthful statement. And it's infuriating for Caps fans, as well as the players, managements, and owners. Last year, the Caps won the most games in the league, dominating the competition easily. But they had a hard time with Pittsburgh and as the Pens were on a roll, Pittsburgh entered the series confident, even though the series began in Washington at the Verizon Center. The series was billed as one between two superstars, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin, but most Pittsburgh fans and insiders knew it would be the third and fourth line players who would make the difference for the Pens. And Matt Murray, the sensational rookie goalie.

Washington's Verizon Center

Game One started out as many Washington fans thought it might, with a Caps win in overtime. The final score was 4-3. Scoring goals for the Pens were Ben Lovejoy, a defenseman who rarely scores, Malkin, and Nick Bonino. The Pens didn't lose their confidence though. Game Two was a tight game, with Pittsburgh needing to win this game to go home tied 1-1. Carl Hagelin scored in the second, Washington tied it up in the third, but with less than five minutes left, former Cap Eric Fehr scored a nice goal for a 2-1 Pens win. The series was now tied 1-1 and heading home to Pittsburgh.

When the Penguins got back to Pittsburgh, they attacked Washington behind the enthusiasm of the hometown fans. Patrick Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl scored first period goals while Hagelin scored a later goal to lead the team to a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead. Game Four was big because it was still in Pittsburgh and the team wanted to win it in front of the hometown fans. It was a hard fought game. Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen scored and the game went into overtime. In OT, Patrick Hornqvist scored another goal to win the game 3-2 and help Pittsburgh take a 3-1 series lead. It was huge.

As stated before, when teams get their backs to the wall, they tend to fight and fight hard. Game Five was going to be tough, very tough, and Pittsburgh wanted to finish this thing off while the Caps had their pride and were determined not to let the Penguins beat them in the playoffs once again and, also, not to let the second best team in the conference beat the best team in the league. But they had their work cut out for them. From the drop of the puck, though, it seemed like Washington's night. Ovechkin, their captain, scored four minutes into the game to put them up 1-0. The refs calls penalties on the Pens all night long, some very spurious, some never seen before. There had been some nasty hits in this series. They continued in this game. The fans were bloodthirsty. It seemed like it wasn't Pittsburgh's night. Chris Kunitz scored a first period goal to even it up, but Washington scored two more goals in the second period to win 3-1 and put the series at 3-2, Pittsburgh.

So, back to Pittsburgh for Game Six. The Pens wanted to win it at home for the fans. As expected, it was a tightly contested game. Both teams wanted it. Phil Kessel led off the game with a first period goal about five minutes into it. In the second period, Kessel struck again, followed seconds later by Hagelin, his linemate. It looked like a Pittsburgh rout. But then Washington came alive. T.J. Oshie struck with a minute a half left in the period. In the third, it was all Caps as they got two goals to tie it up 3-3 and force an overtime. OT was tight, but after six and half minutes, Nick Bonino snuck in and struck for a goal to help the Pens pull off a 4-3 win, and a 4-2 series win over the best team in the league and once again, over a team they own in the playoffs. How sweet. On to the conference finals and the Tampa Bay Lightening, who had gone to the Stanley Cup the year before. It would be a very tough match up.

Beating the Capitals in Game Six

Video of Game Two of the Penguins at the Capitals