FLEURY SHINES AS DEFENDING CHAMPIONS ADVANCE WITH GAME 7 VICTORY
Marc-Andre Fleury denied all 29 shots he faced and Bryan Rust scored the game-winning goal to help the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins defeat the Capitals in Game 7 and advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the third time in the past five seasons.
The Penguins improved to 9-7 all-time in Game 7s, including a 6-0 road record – the best among all major pro sports franchises. The Penguins also improved to 4-0 in Game 7s against the Capitals, including a 3-0 record in Washington.
Fleury, who shares first among active goaltenders with 61 career playoff wins, recorded the ninth shutout of his postseason career – and first since Game 3 of the 2014 Second Round at NYR – to even his record to 3-3 all-time in Game 7s (1.86 GAA, .923 SV%, 1 SO), including a perfect 3-0 mark on the road (also 2009 CSF at WSH and 2009 F at DET). Fleury became the 10th goaltender in NHL history to record a Game 7 shutout on the road and first to achieve the feat with Pittsburgh. Only two Penguins goaltenders have posted a Game 7 shutout on home ice: Frank Pietrangelo (27 saves) in 1991 Division Semifinals vs. NJD and Ken Wregget (33 saves) in 1995 Conference Quarterfinals vs. WSH.
Rust, who notched his third career playoff game-winning goal, has collected three of four Penguins goals over their past two Game 7s – he tallied twice in a 2-1 victory in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final vs. TBL. Overall, the sophomore forward has found the score sheet in four of his first six career series-clinching games (7-1—8). Rust, whose other playoff winner was the series-clincher in the First Round vs. CBJ, became the fourth player in NHL history to have each of his first three career postseason game-winning goals stand as series-winners, joining Joe Carveth (1942-43 w/ DET), Jean Ratelle (1974-79 w/ NYR and BOS; 4 GWG) and Al MacAdam (1980-81 w/ MNS).
The Penguins improved to 9-1 in 10 all-time playoff series against the Capitals, including seven straight series wins dating to the 1995 Conference Quarterfinals, to become the first non-Original Six team to register at least nine series wins against one opponent.
The Penguins will host the Senators for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS). The two teams have met four times previously in the postseason, with Pittsburgh holding a 3-1 edge in those series (2007 CQF: 4-1 L, 2008 CQF: 4-0 W, 2010 CQF: 4-2 W and 2013 CSF: 4-1 W).
DUCKS RALLY PAST OILERS TO REACH CONFERENCE FINALS FOR FIFTH TIME
Andrew Cogliano tied the game in the second period and Nick Ritchie scored the go-ahead goal at 3:21 of the third period to help the Ducks defeat the Oilers in Game 7 to reach the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years and fifth time in franchise history (also 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2015).
The Ducks, who hosted a Game 7 for the fifth consecutive year, snapped a four-game losing streak in winner-take-all contests on home ice as well as a five-game skid in Game 7s overall (3-6). Anaheim also erased a 2-0 series deficit for the first time in club history, becoming the 49th team in NHL history to achieve the feat (49-311, 13.6%). Anaheim’s victory means a California-based team will play in the Western Conference Final for the eight-consecutive season and 12th time in the past 14 seasons.
John Gibson made 23 saves to earn his first Game 7 victory in his second attempt. Anaheim has allowed only one goal against overall in its three all-time Game 7 victories, following 3-0 shutouts in the 1997 Conference Quarterfinals vs. PHX and 2006 Conference Quarterfinals at CGY.
The Ducks overcame a deficit of at least one goal to win for the fifth time this postseason. Overall, 27 of 68 games this postseason (39.7%) have seen the winning team overcome a deficit of at least one goal. Additionally, 16 of 26 games in the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs (61.5 %) featured a game-winning goal scored in either the third period (11) or overtime (5).
The Ducks will host the Predators for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Friday at 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVAS). Nashville defeated Anaheim in seven games in the 2016 First Round and also won their only other playoff meeting (2011 CQF: 4-2 W).
Penguins forward Matt Cullen improved to 6-0 in six career Game 7s, while Capitals forward Justin Williams lost his first such contest (7-1) . . . Penguins captain Sidney Crosby extended his franchise record with his 98th career playoff assist. He has 2-2—4 in six career Game 7s . . . Penguins forward Jake Guentzel (9-5—14 in 12 GP) registered the primary assist on the opening goal to establish a franchise record for points in a single postseason by a rookie, breaking a mark set in 1991 by Jaromir Jagr (3-10—13 in 24 GP) . . . There have been 45 Game 7s since the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most frequently-occurring series length in that span.