The Capitals still have work to do if they hope to advance to the second round, but they now know who they will face should they get there.
The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday with a 5-2 win to advance to the second round. They will play the winner of the Washington-Toronto series.
The Pittsburgh-Columbus series was expected to be one of the most competitive of the first round. It didn't turn out that way as the Penguins needed just five games to put away the Jackets. Evgeni Malkin led the team with 11 points while Pittsburgh also got surprising goal-scoring contributions from Jake Guentzel (5 goals) and Bryan Rust (4 goals). Sidney Crosby also registered seven points in the series as the Penguins dominated Columbus goalie and likely Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky with 4.20 goals per game.
Pittsburgh will now have extra time to rest as they await the winner of the Caps' series with Toronto. That will give the Penguins a chance to heal their wounds, especially goalie Matt Murray who missed the entire first round with a lower-body injury. He has yet to resume skating. Marc-Andre Fleury started in his stead and was fantastic for Pittsburgh, registering a 2.52 GAA and .933 save percentage in five games against Columbus.
Should the Caps advance to the second round, it will be a rematch of last year's second round matchup between Washington and Pittsburgh, a series the Penguins won in six games en route to a Stanley Cup championship. In their history, the Caps have met the Penguins in the playoffs nine times winning only one series in 1994.