The Washington Capitals were put to the test Monday night, and they came through with flying colors.
The Capitals earned a 3-0 victory in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Final series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and have forced a winner-takes-all Game 7 Wednesday night in Tampa's Amalie Arena.
The survivor of that game will take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, which will commence Monday night.
T.J. Oshie scored two goals to lead the Capitals, while Devante Smith-Pelly also got on the board for the winners. Braden Holtby, who had been under fire for his questionable play in the three previous games in the series, was on top of his game with 24 saves and kept the Bolts from finding the back of the net.
Oshie opened the scoring with a power-play goal late in the second period that gave the Caps the edge in the hard-hitting and physical game. His quick shot from the slot seemed to handcuff Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Smith-Pelly broke up a Tampa Bay foray in the Washington zone and then followed the play up the ice before slamming a short shot by the Tampa Bay netminder in the third period.
Oshie's final goal into an empty net clinched a seventh-game appearance for the Capitals. A win will send Washington to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1997.
"It's great that we're close," Oshie said, per Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. "I think we have an idea of what it takes to get here, but I think we're hungry right now—I'm tired right now—but we're excited to drop the puck in a couple days here and go to war."
Eastern Conference Final
Series tied 3-3
Game 7: Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
The Lightning broke through on home ice with a victory Saturday night, while the Caps did the same thing Monday. Prior to those two games, the road team won the first four games of the series.
The Lightning are -139 favorites to win the game and advance to the Stanley Cup Final, per OddsShark. The Capitals are -126 underdogs.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper was not pleased with his team's effort in Game 6, and he did not think his team played like it wanted to close out the series in Game 6.
"We didn't play with the near the desperation they did," Cooper said, per Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com. "Was it a fairly even game? There's no question. But what were the hits, 39-19? Somebody was engaged, and somebody wasn't. That's a choice."
If the Lightning win the series, they will have home-ice advantage in the championship round against the expansion Golden Knights. If the Capitals come through with their third road win in the series, Vegas will have the home-ice edge in the series.
The Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the Western Conference Final, and they clinched the series with a 2-1 victory Sunday.
Head coach Gerard Gallant will face the challenge of keeping his team sharp even though it will go more than a week between the end of the Western Conference championship and the start of the Stanley Cup Final.