PITTSBURGH – A three-goal lead gone — and his team’s momentum right along with it — Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan provided a reminder heading to overtime of Game 6 of a relentlessly entertaining playoff series against the Washington Capitals.
Keep skating. Play fast. Be confident.
In the span of a dozen frantic seconds early in the extra period on Tuesday night, Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino did all three, sending their resilient club to the Eastern Conference final in the process.
Bonino tapped in a rebound of Hagelin’s shot by Braden Holtby 6:32 into overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 win to wrap up the series in six games and set up a showdown with Tampa Bay for the right to play for the Stanley Cup.
Kessel went to the corner to retrieve the puck and passed it to Hagelin in the slot. Hagelin’s shot caromed off Holtby’s right pad directly to Bonino, who had little trouble pushing it into the net for his 10th career playoff goal, and easily his most important.
“I just went to the front,” Bonino said. “The puck always ends up there and I was able to get a stick on it. It wasn’t pretty, but they’re usually not.”
The Capitals overcame a three-goal deficit in the final 22 minutes of regulation and earned a break when Jay Beagle went to his belly on the goal line to steer a shot by Patric Hornqvist out of harm’s way early in the extra period.
There was no stopping Bonino’s tap-in, however, sending the Presidents’ Trophy winners to their dressing room with an all-too familiar feeling.
Nine times the longtime rivals have met in the playoffs. Eight times the post-series handshake line has ended with Pittsburgh celebrating and Washington trudging toward the offseason.
“It’s just kind of setting in right now that it’s over,” Beagle said. “We had high expectations. The Cup was our goal all year and unfortunately we didn’t (make it).”