COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Washington Capitals can now turn their attention to the Pittsburgh Penguins and avenging some playoff disappointments.
The Capitals won four straight games over the Columbus Blue Jackets after fumbling the first two in overtime at home, capping their opening-round playoff series with a 6-3 victory Monday night in Game 6.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including his 50th playoff goal, and Braden Holtby had 35 saves to lift the Capitals, who never trailed after winning in overtime in Game 5 on Saturday. After Ovechkin’s second-period goals, Washington never relinquished a two-goal lead. Four of the games in the series went to overtime.
The Capitals will again move onto the conference semifinals after being eliminated by Pittsburgh in the second round in each of the past two seasons.
“I think we accomplished what we believed we could at the beginning of the series,” said Holtby, who relieved a struggling Philipp Grubauer in Game 2 and was great the rest of the way. “We’ll enjoy it a bit, rest up and prepare for the next one.”
Washington coach Barry Trotz didn’t want to talk about Pittsburgh yet.
“Please let me breathe,” he said. “We haven’t taken a breath since this started.”
Chandler Stephenson had a goal and an assist, and Dimitry Orlov, Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller also tallied Monday for Washington, which never trailed in the game after prevailing in extra time in Game 5 on Saturday. The Capitals won each of the three games in Columbus.
“I do know on the road it seems like for whatever reason we’re focused, we’re driven,” Washington forward T.J. Oshie said. “It seems like we almost like it when an opposing team’s crowd gets into it. It almost gets us going, too, and makes you want to quiet them down.”
The story for the Blue Jackets in the four-game stretch was their power-play futility. After going 4 for 8 with a man advantage in the first two games, the Blue Jackets were 0 for 16 in the last four.
“Beginning of the series, our power play was going,” said Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who scored twice Monday. “We were scoring at will. For whatever reason, it dried out. We’ve got to figure that out.”
Pierre-Luc Dubois also scored and Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 22 saves for the Blue Jackets, who lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season and fourth time overall. They remain the only active NHL franchise never to win a playoff series.
The Capitals struck first again Monday night.
Shortly after Holtby held off a Columbus barrage, Orlov got his first goal of the series when he skated into the slot and rifled a slap shot over Bobrovsky’s glove side with 7:48 left in the first.
Foligno got his first of the playoffs halfway through the second when he snapped a shot past Holtby from the right circle. That came soon after the Blue Jackets survived overlapping penalties, including 32 seconds of a 5-on-3.
Ovechkin put back a rebound of a shot by Brooks Orpik to make it 2-1 with 7:10 left in the second, the 50th playoff goal of the Russian star’s career. He then gave the Caps a two-goal lead with a one-timer from the left circle on a power play.
The Blue Jackets tightened it to 3-2 early in the third when Dubois connected. But Smith-Pelly increased the Capitals’ lead again 91 seconds later. Stevenson got a short-handed goal 1 1/2 minutes later to pad it.
Foligno got the Blue Jackets to 5-3 at 8:22 in the third, but Columbus couldn’t get closer. Eller added an empty-net goal with 14 seconds left.
“It was a war out there,” Trotz said. “It was a really strong series by them, and it forced us to the limit for sure.”
NOTES: Washington is the first team in NHL history to win a playoff series after losing each of the first two games at home in overtime. … Washington again kept the Blue Jackets’ best player Artemi Panarin off the score sheet after he had two goals and five assists in the first three playoff games… The Blue Jackets are 2-8 at home in four postseason appearances. … Ovechkin had five goals in the playoff series.
Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy
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