COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Braden Holtby had 35 saves as the Washington Capitals advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday night.
The Capitals will next face Pittsburgh in the second round of the playoffs for a third straight year. The Penguins won each of the last two years on the way to winning consecutive Stanley Cup championships..
Chandler Stephenson had a goal and an assist, and Dimitry Orlov, Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller also tallied for Washington, which never trailed in the game after prevailing in overtime in Game 5 on Saturday.
Nick Foligno had two goals, 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.
Washington won four straight games after going down 2-0 at home with both games decided in overtime.
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 after Matt Calvert shoveled a pass out to Dubois, who connected from the right circle.
But Smith-Pelly increased the Capitals’ lead again 91 seconds later when he broke away and lifted a shot over Bobrovsky’s glove. 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.
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. … The Blue Jackets were 0 for 16 on power plays going back to overtime in Game 2. … 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. … Columbus switched up its bottom three lines under Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson, moving Calvert — who has had three goals in the series — up from the third to the second. But the lines were switched up again soon after faceoff. … The Blue Jackets are 2-8 at home in four postseason appearances. … Ovechkin had five goals in the playoff series.
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