Line up for the Penguins remained mostly the same from Round 1. Only change was Chris Kunitz returning from injury and replacing Carter Rowney on the fourth line.
Carl Hagelin was a full participant in the morning skate but remained out.
No surprise in goal with Fleury getting the start.
The biggest lineup note for the Capitals was defenseman Karl Alzner who remains out with an injury. Nate Schmidt slides in on the blue line.
Puck dropped and the Pens Stanley Cup defense resumed in Round 2 against the Capitals.
First real scoring chance goes in favor of the Capitals as Evgeny Kuznetsov gets a step on Olli Maatta but his backhand wraparound attempt goes wide.
Big save from Braden Holtby on a re-direct off the stick of Patric Hornqvist. Puck was going top corner but Holtby managed to get a shoulder on it.
Pens get the first power play opportunity of the series at 3:38 of the first period. Alex Ovechkin is whistled for interference on Hornqvist.
Handful of looks for the Pens on the man advantage but they could not capitalize as the Caps kill off the Ovechkin minor to keep the game scoreless six minutes in.
For the first time in the playoffs the Pens looked alive in the opening moments of the game, getting some looks on net and drawing a penalty. After getting worked on a nightly basis by the Blue Jackets in the early going during the first round, the Pens came out and matched the intensity of their rivals.
If there was any concern about rust after the long layoff the Penguins quickly squelched those fears in the opening 10 minutes of play. Not only did the Pens have the early lead in shots they carried most of the play, forcing the Caps onto their heals and Holtby to make some keys saves.
As the period wore on the Caps began to find their game and generated some offense for the first time all evening. Luckily when the Caps found their game the Pens kept playing their’s as well as the game began to open up.
Ovechkin got a 1-on-1 look against Ian Cole but Cole stepped up and poke checked the puck away to prevent a shot on goal.
The clock ticked under five minutes remaining in the period and a dance party took over the Pens crease. An Ovechkin shot was stopped by Fleury but the rebound was there for the taking and T.J. Oshie nearly put the Caps up 1-0 but Jake Guentzel made a flying kick save to keep the puck out.
Following the mayhem in the Pens crease the game settled down but remained fast paced up and down the ice.
Neither side could find an opening marker in the final minutes as the horn sounded and the first period came to a close with the teams knotted at 0-0.
Once the puck dropped to start the second period the 0-0 on the scoreboard did not remain there very long.
Just 12 seconds after play resumed the Pens broke the deadlock. A face-off win by Sidney Crosby quickly turned into a 1-0 lead off the stick of Crosby. A picture perfect feed from Guentzel landed on the stick of Crosby who buried over the glove of Holtby for the opening goal.
With momentum on their side the Pens continued to push and soon found themselves with a 2-0 lead barely a minute into the second period.
A shot from the blue line was knocked down before it reached Holtby where Hornqvist collected it and dished to Crosby who potted it into a wide open for his second goal in less than a minute and a two goal lead for the Pens.
Shell shocked, the Capitals attempted to settle down and recover but the Pens just kept coming in waves.
Crosby had multiple looks at the hat trick in the first 10 minutes but could not extend the lead further.
As the clock continued to run the Capitals began to tilt the ice in their favor trying to get back in the game. By amping up the pressure the Pens began to make some uncharacteristic mistakes and in the process giving the Caps some glorious opportunities.
With the Caps coming and the Pens on their heels, Fleury did all he could to preserve the 2-0 lead but he could only hold out so long.
A nifty passing play just inside the blue line ended on the stick Ovechkin who walked in all alone and beat Fleury clean over the shoulder to get the Caps on the board and cut the Pens lead in half.
All the sudden the momentum was fully on the Caps side and they continued to push for a tying goal before the horn.
Under a minute to play the teams were playing 4-on-4 and Fleury made a sliding save on Nicklas Backstrom to preserve the 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
The third period began 4-on-4 but the extra ice did not provide any significant chances for either side.
Five minutes gone in the final period and the score remained 2-1 in favor of the Pens. Breaking out in a 3-on-2 the Pens had a prime chance to restore the two goal leas but Dmitry Orlov got his stick on a shot by Guentzel to thwart the opportunity.
As the third period you went along you began to get the feeling the Capitals had a second goal in them and with just over eight minutes gone they found it. An already rough night for Conor Sheary was made worse when his turnover and blow assignment allowed Kuznetsov to knot the game at 2-2 on a feed from Matt Niskanen.
It started to look like the Caps were going to grab a lead but everyone realized it is May and that means it was time for Nick Bonino to make an appearance. The man who ended it last season came up large once again. Blowing past Brooks Orpik, Bonino collected a pass from Scott Wilson and beat Holtby clean for a 3-2 lead with 7:24 remaining.
Shortly after the Bonino goal the Pens got their second chance with the man advantage when Niskanen was called for slashing Fleury. With a chance to gain some breathing room the Pens came close but could not find a way past Holtby and the Caps killed the penalty to remain down just one.
They had the lead now all they had to do was hold on but the Caps were going to throw everything they had at Fleury.
For a second time in the game a mad scramble took place in front of the Pens net as the puck lay loose for anyone to take. The Capitals came within inches of a tying goal but Fleury slammed the door shut.
Less than two minutes remaining the Caps pulled Holtby for the extra attacker and that sense of dread began to set in. The Caps were controlling the puck in the zone and you were just waiting for that tying goal.
Fortunately, Fleury was in lock down mode and kept the Caps at bay until the clock hit zero to give the Pens a 3-2 victory in Game 1 and they early 1-0 advantage in the series.
- It’s impossible to heap enough praise on Marc-Andre Fleury not just for this game but for the entirety of the playoffs to this point. He wasn’t supposed to be in this position but he’s done more than we could ever ask for. What a performance.
- Crosby v. Ovechkin lived up to the hype we all expected. You just knew these two were going to bring it.
- I posted this on Twitter early in the game but Evgeny Kuznetsov might be the most terrifying player on the Capitals. Ovie can rip it from anywhere but Kuznetsov’s skating ability is a marvel.
- The refs had no interest in calling much of anything in this game. It feels like that will be a theme throughout the whole series.
- Early in the Toronto series Braden Holtby looked off his game. There were times last night he looked off. He eventually bounced back against Toronto so don’t be surprised if he does the same this series.
- Nick Bonino is not an especially fast player but he turned Orpik into a pylon on his go-ahead goal.
- Matt Niskanen does not get nearly enough credit. Incredible pass to set up the tying goal.
- Have to wonder if a night off would do Conor Sheary some good.
- In the eight series the Pens have won against the Caps, Game 1 has always gone to Washington. That stat aside this still feels like a massive victory. All the pressure on the Caps in Game 2.
- See you Saturday night.