Capitals beat Blue Jackets in Game 6 to advance to 2nd round

Tarik's 3 Stars Nick Backstrom the OT hero in series-changing Game 5 win

The Capitals will next face Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs for a third straight year.

This is a great team that has yet to enjoy any postseason success. Ultimately, the Caps bounced back with a double-overtime win in Game 3 and never looked back, ripping off four straight against the Jackets and clinching Game 6 on the road. The Penguins won their series, 4-2 and had a regular season record, 47-29.

While this will hurt every Jackets fan, the Capitals may have thrown their hat into the true contender ring as they showed a determination to turn around a two game deficit. But Holtby was good enough.

And I have a feeling it's the series Ovechkin wants more than any other. "They make a lot of plays".

The biggest key to this series for Washington was goaltending. He also became the 60th player in National Hockey League history to reach 50 postseason goals, which is pretty incredible considering he only gets to play in the first half of the bracket. This gave the Capitals an opportunity to score with one less Blue Jacket on the ice when Seth Jones was penalized for holding Ovechkin. The reassurance and comfort level that comes with knowing you've got a goaltender you can trust behind you can be huge for the rest of a lineup.

Another turning point in this series came the minute Braden Holtby stepped between the pipes for Washington. "We've been struggling in the second round". In four tries, Holtby has failed to close the door.

Round 1 Strengths for Pittsburgh: As the highest-scoring team in Round 1, offence was a strength for the Penguins, although a large chunk of that can be attributed to the weak goaltending in Philadelphia's net. "We have a number of things we need to get better at, as individuals and as a team". The Wild have split with longtime general manager Chuck Fletcher after the team's first-round playoff exit at the hands of Winnipeg. He took 28 shots and scored four goals, ranking second to Ovechkin in each category.

True, none of the current players or coaches was around for the majority (seven) of those 10 prior series, and only a handful were present for any more than the 2015 and "16 Penguins" wins. "He said, 'I don't think I'm going to get to 50".

The Jackets were unable to string two goals together and couldn't get themselves a lead. While not stellar, this type of production outside of the top line is what Washington needed to advance.

But the rivalry between the teams has played out more like that between the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.

Game four started horrendously for the Jackets as they fell 3-0 down early in the third period.

In the first two games of the opening-round tilt between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, the series had that certain here-we-go-again feeling for Alex Ovechkin and Co. The Penguins don't particularly care who Washington has in net. Just because they always beat Washington doesn't mean they're going to always beat Washington.

The one man who could control all of that is Holtby. "It was a really strong series by them, and it forced us to the limit for sure".

We've seen Holtby do what he did against Columbus.

⦁ Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast "Cigars & Curveballs" Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network. A performance that will make Grubauer's two starts at the beginning of this postseason a hockey footnote - the answer to an obscure trivia question.

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