The Pittsburgh Penguins cleared potentially their biggest hurdle on Wednesday as they look to defending their Stanley Cup championship title.
Pushed to a seventh and deciding game by the Washington Capitals, the Penguins, 5/7 to win the Stanley Cup outright. responded with a 2-0 victory at the Verizon Center in Washington.
The Capitals had the best record in the regular campaign to win the Presidents' Trophy Award, but after looking uncomfortable against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round before finally winning, there was no escape in the second against Pittsburgh.
Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist were on target for the visitors as Pittsburgh secured the right to play the Ottawa Senators, 1/1 to win the Stanley Cup, in the Eastern Conference Final.
The first two games of that series are on Saturday and Monday at the PPG Paints Arena before the two teams will head north of the border for Game 3 next week.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators finally know who they will face after the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in their Game 7 match-up.
Drake Caggiula was credited with a goal early in the first, although it was down to a Shea Theodore error, to give the Oilers hope only to see Andrew Cogliano and Nick Ritchie respond for the hosts at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Oilers can feel aggrieved at the number of missed calls in the series, but this is a young team that will be back challenging next season and may well start the 2017/18 campaign as a trendy pick to win the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. That is the future. For now, the Ducks and the Predators open their series on Friday.
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