C’est fini. Panthers beat Capitals 4-3 in overtime.

The Washington Capitals have fallen to the Florida Panthers. The Capitals took the lead twice in Game Six but declined several opportunities to either protect or extend those leads.

The Caps struck first: Nic Dowd diving to take a shot on the rush. The Panthers tied it less than three minutes later off Ryan Lomberg.

Early in the third, Nicklas Backstrom executed an expert deflection to give Washington their second lead of the night, which evaporated seven minutes later when Claude Giroux scored on the rush.

With five minutes and forty-three seconds left in the game, Aleksandr Barkov got a layup to put the Panthers up. The Capitals were 63 seconds from elimination when Anthony Mantha and TJ Oshie played ping-pong in the crease to tie the game and force overtime.

Carter Verhaege won it overtime.

Caps lose. Florida wins the series four games to two.

  • The Capitals started the game on a physical note, leveling a ton of hits early on. I’m not gonna cite the number to you because I don’t trust the statkeepers on hits, but I am reminded of an aphorism: Violence is not the answer. Violence is the question. And the answer is Yes.
  • Related, I think, to their aggressive play in the first period, the Caps sure controlled the puck well. But they ran out of gas a bit after the intermission, when the game’s flow tightened to an uncomfortable degree. it became less like Game One, more like Game Five.
  • Alex Ovechkin led the Caps in hits early in the game, including one monster hit on Aaron Ekblad, who briefly left the game but returned. But Ovechkin didn’t get a single shot on goal until the third period as the Panthers really locked down defensively.
  • I made a point of touting the fourth line earlier this week, so I’m extra relieved that Nic Dowd got to be the hero for a moment. Dowd scored on his own rebound, and he appeared to think his original shot had gone in—watch him briefly celebrate before scoring the actual goal here.
  • Dowd also rank the post immediately before Barkov scored the go-ahead goal for Florida.
  • Martin Fehervary and John Carlson made poor defensive decisions on the Lomberg goal. I sure wish they could tamp down a bit, especially when the Caps are protecting a lead. Lomberg, by the way, stepped into the lineup for Anthony Duclair, who was a surprise scratch. I guess Duclair is hurt; I can’t imagine pulling a thirty-goal scorer otherwise.
  • Ilya Samsonov was wonderful this series, but failing to stop that relatively simple Claude Giroux shot when up one goal in the third was deflating in a manner I’ve not felt since Michal Neuvirth in the 2011 playoffs.
  • With his game-tying goal in the third period, TJ Oshie notched his sixth goal of the series. He’s a killer. I loved Ovechkin’s celebration.

We love Walton, but get well soon, Joe B.

That was a very tough series—and a very tough season. The Washington Capitals surpassed expectations, but it’s hard to avoid the impression that they had little left in the tank at the end. They’re an older roster, struggling to stay mobile. They’ve got impressive offensive weapons, but with those weapons come defensive weaknesses that teams like Florida readily exploit.

A team’s outlook can change so fast in this league. Remember how dreamy Florida looked in 2018? But the path from here—Washington’s fourth consecutive first-round elimination—to real contention is not clear to me. Inside the organization, I’m not sure what the expectations for this team are anymore. Are they the “just get Ovi more goals” regular-season fan club?

I don’t know, and I’m obviously a grumpus, so let me end with some positive notes. This playoff series was infinitely better than the last two Washington offered. Even in defeat, they have a lot to be proud of. They came damn close from pushing the President’s Trophy winners to the brink.

Thanks for reading RMNB. You know by now that we’re not going anywhere. We’ve got at least four games seven (universally known as “gays sev”) this weekend, so stick around and let’s watch, I dunno, like, either the Rangers or Penguins get their hearts broken. That’ll cheer us up, right?

Headline photo: pennybacker

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