Australian makes NHL history in playoffs

Australia's Nathan Walker has made NHL history and played a starring role in the Washington Capitals' 2-1 overtime victory to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins from the playoffs.

After a tumultuous season where he was cut and then re-signed by the Capitals, the 24-year-old from Sydney etched his name in the NHL record books on Tuesday [AEST] when he became the first Australian to participate in a playoff game.

In October last year the trailblazer became the first Australian to play in the NHL.

On Tuesday, it did not take Walker long to make a key play that set the Capitals up for victory and earn a berth in the eastern conference finals for the first time in 20 years.

The Capitals and Penguins were scoreless in the second quarter when Walker struck.

He held off Pittsburgh's Derick Brassard behind the Pittsburgh net, fed the puck to Alex Chiasson and the Canadian scored.

The Capitals sealed the win in overtime when Alex Ovechkin passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who split the Penguins' defence and beat goaltender Matt Murray.

The victory ended Pittsburgh's two-year reign as Stanley Cup champions.

The Capitals will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference finals, with the victor advancing to play for the Stanley Cup.

Walker's arrival in the NHL post-season has not come easy. The diminutive 173cm centre moved from Sydney to the Czech Republic as a 13-year-old because ice hockey opportunities were so slim in Australia.

After playing in Europe and then junior US leagues he was selected by the Capitals in the 2014 NHL draft, sent to the Capitals' affiliate team the Hershey Bears and overcame injuries including a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Nathan Walker (top) celebrates the Caps’ win.

Less than a month after Walker's historic October 7 debut for the Capitals, where he scored a goal, the team cut him.

The Edmonton Oilers swooped in and signed him but less than three weeks later he was cut again.

The Capitals quickly signed him again.

AAP

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