Perhaps the best moment of game seven for the Caps was the last two minutes, when what was left of the sold out Verizon Center crowd put aside grave disappointment and gave the home team a well-deserved standing ovation for a great season. Following the game, and a longer-than-usual handshake line, the Caps remained on the ice to acknowledge the steadfast support.
By then, though, the Caps had long since napalmed their chances of moving onto the Eastern Conference finals. Other than Marc-Andre Fleury stoning Alex Ovechkin just two minutes into the game, the Caps got nary a quality scoring chance until Ovie netted one when the result had long since been decided. The Pittsburgh Penguins notched two goals in eight seconds (12:36 by Sidney Crosby on the power play followed by Craig Adams' first career playoff goal) and the rout had commenced.
"You gotta be ready every night. In the playoffs, if you put yourself in position like this, eventually you're not going to win games," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We weren't able to get up that much emotionally, it looked like anyway."
Boudreau probably should have used his timeout at that point. But he didn't and things only got worse. Just 30 seconds into the second period, Bill Guerin made it 3-0 and Kris Letang added to the damage about two minutes later from virtually the same spot. That was the end of Simeon Varlamov's night and, quite frankly, the Caps' season.
At the midway point of the game, the Caps had eight shots on goal -- four of which came in the game's first 10 minutes. (The Pens had 22 at that moment.)
"It was definitely anti-climatic," Boudreau said. "It certainly wasn't the way I would have envisioned it, scripted it. You know, whether we won or loss, I never would have thought that we would have ended up in a game like it was tonight."
Amidst an ESPN reunion that only was missing Gary Thorne and Bill Clement comes this nugget: Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear are probably headed to the KHL next season. (Sergei Fedorov might join them or retire.)
The Caps, as currently constructed, will gather once more on Friday. Who is around for next season is something that will be the subject of a heated debate in the weeks ahead. And who stays in town (and who joins them) will determine if the Caps will be faced with a similar situation at this time next year.