Capitals have been struggling

Sometimes getting to the top spot is easier than staying there, at least that appears to be the case for the Washington Capitals. After cruising through the regular season with a 56-18-8 record in their President's Cup-winning season, the squad from the United States capital has struggled in its second round Stanley Cup match-up with the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

Because of the new fashion in which the National Hockey League (N.H.L.) aligns its playoff system, the Capitals and Penguins are meeting in the second round of the playoffs, rather than in the Eastern Conference finals, as they should.

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The net result is that one of these teams will be taking an early summer vacation.

That team looked to be the Capitals, after Pittsburgh squeezed out back-to-back 3-2 victories on their home ice at the Consol Energy Center. Those two wins, combined with a 2-1 triumph at the Verizon Center on April 30th, put the Penguins in the driver's seat heading into the May 7th contest in Washington, D.C.

"Desperation was new to the Washington Capitals' locker room, the fear of summer starting early long a distant thought for a team that had the NHL's best record throughout the regular season.

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There was an admitted curiosity among players as to how they'd respond to this kind of pressure, but Coach Barry Trotz never had any doubt," said Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post in an article published on May 7, 2016.

As expected, Russian winger, Alexander Ovechkin was a force all evening with a power play goal, and an assist on American T.J. Oshie's fifth goal of these playoffs. Oshie's tally was a power play goal as well, as the Capitals went two for five with the man advantage.

Braden Holtby turned away 30 of 31 shots for Washington, as his only blemish was a Chris Kunitz power play goal in the first period that tied the game at 1-1.

The game was a close affair all the way around, as the teams were nearly even in face-off wins and hits. Washington won 51 percent of the face-offs, while the Penguins slightly outhit the Capitals (28 to 26). 

But the efforts of Ovechkin and Oshie could have gone for naught if not for goaltender Braden Holtby:

The series resumes on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 with game six in Pittsburgh, Pa.

with the Penguins now clinging to a 3-2 series lead, as Sidney Crosby and company try again to close out the Capitals.

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