Welcome back, Marc-Andre Fleury! Well, kind of. Fleury served as the backup goalie tonight, a good sign since it must mean that doctors have cleared him to play. The Pens also put in Derrick Pouliot for the injured Olli Maatta.
The Capitals used Dmitry Orlov in the lineup for the suspended Brooks Orpik and lineup wise started the game bumping up Marcus Johansson to the struggling line 2 and demoting Andre Burakovsky to the 3rd line.
For the first time this series, the Pens get off to a slow start for the game, but they still score before the first TV timeout. Kris Letang draws in the Caps forecheck and advances the puck up for a the Pens to get some time and space. Eventually the puck finds Trevor Daley who guns one to the net with Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby in front of the net. The puck changes directions (Hornqvist's goal as of this writing) and Braden Holtby has no chance.
Let's see that deflection one more time. pic.twitter.com/Bt4fHYugoE— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 3, 2016
Not long after, Letang starts another transition play that turns into a 2-on-1 for the Pens. Matt Cullen throws the puck to the middle, it deflects up and off the back of Tom Kuhnhackl and into the net. Hey, they don't ask how, they ask how many. 2-0 Pens.
You can do it, get your back into it! pic.twitter.com/46TOXuHceT— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 3, 2016
Matt Murray, y'all. Big guy was ice cool as normal in the first, stopping the first 12 he saw including Alex Ovechkin at an early chance.
Ovechkin/Backstrom chances pic.twitter.com/PmWVMTugY5— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 3, 2016
Then, things devolve again. Letang steps up and nails Marcus Johansson after he releases the puck in the middle of the ice. Up 2-0 there's absolutely no reason for this. Bad move by Letang.
NBC had him clocked at 0.63 seconds (unofficially) to be late, right on the border. We'll see what the league thinks. This totally should have been a 5-minute major and an ejection -- just as the Orpik hit last game should have been. No need to dwell on this right now in the recap (plenty of time for that in the next 2 days) so we'll see what happens.
No matter what, totally dumb by Letang. Needless and it risks keeping himself out, and he's the last guy that Pittsburgh can afford to lose. All this while the team was WINNING 2-0.
Letang gets only 2 mins for interference for this hit on Johnasson pic.twitter.com/gK8wppEsU0— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 3, 2016
The Caps, as you might expect, weren't holding anything back on Letang. Nice jump into the back of the head by Nicklas Backstrom here.
Letang hit on Ovechkin; Backstrom with the follow up knee to the back of the head pic.twitter.com/0YcttFssSi— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 3, 2016
If we're going to talk intent and contact to the head....
Another look at Letang getting kneed pic.twitter.com/mEQIkbEsUr— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 3, 2016
The Pens get back to action though and score when Nate Schmidt fumbles a puck when Kessel pressures him. Nick Bonino works it to space and passed it back through the middle for Carl Hagelin and an easy finish with Schmidt falling over himself again and into the net.
Bonino gets sneaky behind Holtby and Hagelin taps it in for the three-goal lead! pic.twitter.com/lzxmeMXzH7— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 3, 2016
John Carlson with an extra late little shot on Hagelin as well as he coasts back to the net.
Nice crosscheck by Carlson after the goal! https://t.co/h5a5KYRAVC— Evgeni Malkin's Ego (@EvgeniMaIkinEgo) May 3, 2016
The Caps get on the board with 12 minutes left, Ovechkin rockets a perfect shot between the head and glove of Murray to make it 3-1.
Matt Cullen .... Or Sidney Crosby? You still got it (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)
Cullen does a fancy thing pic.twitter.com/O0pArvvi5m— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 3, 2016
All Caps, huge push. Ovechkin smashes the post, Justin Williams is there to clean up the bouncing puck for a nice goal to make it 3-2.
net cam view pic.twitter.com/VsR3lghg1a— Stephanie (@myregularface) May 3, 2016
Williams takes one more for the road with a big kick out on Letang in the closing seconds.
Justin Williams with some dirty doings on Letang https://t.co/sCtqsk6xH1— Tim Bowers (@TimBowers62) May 3, 2016
Try as they may, the Caps couldn't get the equalizer in time. And, breath.
- Bryan Rust blocked a couple shots on his first shift in the game, and a big one that stung him somewhere on the inside of the knee and would have to leave for good to the dressing room. His absence shook up the bottom 3 lines big time, but helped to get Phil Kessel out with Evgeni Malkin at even, which is always interesting.
- Scoring chances were 6-2 Washington early. The 2 for the Pens were goals. On one hand, it would be better for the pulse to control more of the play. On the other hand, any time you can get 2 early goals and dig a big hole for the opposition, you take it all day long, no matter if it's a lucky bounce or what.
- Amazingly, Johansson was able to start the 2nd period, a factor the NHL will take into account for a Letang discipline hearing. Luckily and fortunately, seemingly no lasting damage was done.
- Coincidentally or not, after implying the NHL is favoring the Pens, Barry Trotz saw his team get 3 power plays in the 1st period. They only had 2 in the entire Game 2.
- The Caps were up on shots 28-14 through 2. But losing 3-0. Hockey's a funny game like that, sometimes. Hopefully it remains the same kind of funny for a while longer.
- Story of the game was probably Murray. After giving up 1, maybe 2 stoppable goals in Game 1 (depending how generous you are) the youngster has just gotten better and better as each minute has gone on.
- Pens PP is now 0-for-10 against the Caps. This is a problem that needs solving, but so it goes. Power play's run hot and then cold. The Pens are ice cold, they need to get right.
- 18 shots attempts and 9 hits for Ovechkin. He certainly was trying his best and it almost made all the difference. Luckily tonight for the Pens, almost wasn't quite enough to dig out of the hole.
- This was all about Murray, huge night for the youngster. When Caps fans couldn't believe I said that goaltending would be about even in this series...Well, this is what I meant.
- Crosby couldn't win a faceoff in the closing minutes to save his life. Not great there. Whether it was T.J. Oshie on his strong side or Backstrom, Crosby was poor and that hurt the team big time.
It's better to win in a poor way this time of year than to lose in a strong way. Quick reset to Wednesday night for Game 4, the Penguins have to be more like Game's 1 and 2 and less like this to keep their home-ice advantage.
This series has not disappointed, the Caps were the league's best team this season for a reason. The Penguins are going to have to take their best shots and try to win anyways. Tonight, they were fortunate enough to do so.