National Hockey League concussion protocol leaves loophole for Crosby injury

Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie (77) celebrates his goal with Alex Ovechkin in the first period of Game 6 in an NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 8, 2017.

In the past two games, the Pittsburgh Penguins have had the Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

National Hockey League history has taught us that a Game 7 has a randomness that can not be predicted, but the Capitals have looked like they are taking charge of the Eastern Conference semifinal after a 5-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6.

The Capitals are as close as they've been to their first appearance in the conference finals in 19 years after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit by sprinting by Pittsburgh in the third period at home in Game 5 and then delivering a masterful performance 48 hours later in a city that's often been a burial ground for once-promising seasons.

The Senators first encounter with the Capitals was New Year's Day, when they suffered a 2-1 defeat at Verizon Center. There will be, over those two days, comparisons to 2009, when Washington similarly won the sixth game in Pittsburgh to earn a trip back home - that one on David Steckel's overtime goal at the old Igloo.

Pittsburgh registered just one shot in the first 17 minutes of Game 6, that one a 136-foot knuckler on a clear by defenseman Brian Dumoulin that just happened to make its way to Washington goaltender Braden Holtby.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the 5-2 loss and again Tuesday that Crosby was not in the protocol. "We just focus on Game 6 right now".

The biggest change you can see is the reuniting of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel, otherwise known as the HBK line.

More facts: The Penguins are better when Crosby is healthy and plays. Though "HBK" was hardly the only group that had issues.

A week after he was knocked out of playoff game with a concussion, Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby slid headfirst into the boards during another tense game against the Washington Capitals. He didn't miss a shift and stressed he felt fine. "If you're looking for a test when you're coming back that's a good one". The problem is, at least in this series, the Penguins' offense has seemingly become dependent on those counters. It was the latest in a long recent history of postseason disappointment for the franchise. Now they're doing neither. The Penguins goalie, who had been outstanding in the playoffs, has allowed nine goals in the last two games. He's picked up an assist in each of the last two games, but we're still waiting for the Rocket Richard Trophy winner's offensive explosion.

"Yeah, yeah. Pretty standard", Crosby said. "But you have to give Washington credit too".

"Mike, were you concerned when you saw Sid sort of slow to get up a couple times in the first, and was he evaluated for a concussion in the first intermission?" a reporter asked Sullivan. If Matt Murray were healthy, he would be replacing Fleury for Game 7.

Crosby was concussed in Game 3 of their second-round series against the Capitals. Those Caps arrived home with all sorts of momentum and anticipation, and they were simply overwhelmed in a 6-2 Penguins victory.

"There shouldn't be any wondering about it", Crosby said.

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