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Game 2 Recap: Pens take Caps best shot, survive. Fire back and win 6-2

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The Pittsburgh Penguins almost get run out of the building in the 1st period but Marc-Andre Fleury plays masterfully and keeps the game 0-0. The opportunistic Pens strike later with the big guns in Crosby, Kessel, Malkin, Guentzel all getting points and pushing the Pens to a 2-0 series lead.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Welcome back Carl Hagelin! The speedy winger returns for his first action in almost 7 weeks taking the place of Scott Wilson in the lineup

The Capitals make a lineup change of their own, switching out forward Brett Connolly as a healthy scratch for minor-league tweener Paul Carey.

1st period

Despite the lines the team tweeted (which doesn't come from the coaches), Mike Sullivan immediately re-unites Hagelin with Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. Sheary and Rust skate with Malkin.

Washington gets their first power play of the series early with Trevor Daley off for a hook but don't do much with the power play. Alex Ovechkin gets one shot (one guess from where) but Marc-Andre Fleury has no traffic, reads it, knows what's coming and makes a solid save and the Penguins kill if off.

But Pittsburgh remains on the ropes big time, at one point shot attempts are 22-4 Washington. Goals remains 0-0 thanks to Fleury.

Washington cranks the pressure up, pretty much any and every Penguin making poor decisions when they get the puck and about all lines and pairings are getting trapped..

Patric Hornqvist drops to block a shot at it hits him around the foot. He leaves.

In the midst of one scrum, Evgeny Kuznetsov makes a subtle but direct kick to the back of a downed Fleury. Hmm.

Washington gets another power play but do little with it, the Pens actually look better with 4 skaters + the ability to ice the puck freely.

Shots 16-5 after one, shot attempts even worse but luckily this isn't the Corsi Cup playoffs. Real score remains 0-0 but the Pens definitely need an intermission pep talk to get going.

2nd period

Right off the bat, Pens bring back GCS. Not sure Sheary is the answer with the way he's been playing but no Hornqvist back yet means not much of a choice.

TJ Oshie hits Brian Dumoulin big, starting a 2-on-1. Guentzel has to take a penalty to stop a better scoring chance and gives the Caps a 3rd power play. Dumoulin luckily wouldn't miss any time after going to the bench slow.

Then, amazingly, the Penguins score the game's first goal. Matt Cullen blocks a Kevin Shattenkirk shot and races down the ice. Oshie hooks him but he is able to slide the puck under Braden Holtby to make the game 1-0.

The Capitals don't let the lead last, still on the power play they are able to win the puck off the wall, pass it out to Matt Niskanen who is all alone in front and he's able to beat Fleury on a one-timer. 1-1.

Immediately after that, Malkin takes a needless slashing penalty. The Caps get a 4th power play in the 22 minutes of the game, which is bound to happen when they control the puck so much but that was avoidable. Luckily the Pens are able to kill it.

A little later the Pens get their first power play of the game and some good zone time, but nothing too serious.

Pittsburgh strikes to make it 2-1, Sidney Crosby there just are no words

Great finish and shot by Phil Kessel and that's just uncanny.

The Pens keep being opportunistic, Crosby blocks a shot and dives to advance the play, Guentzel in on a 2-on-1, looks off the pass and blows a puck short-side beneath the glove of Holtby. 3-1 Pens.

Caps end up outshooting the Pens 11-9 in the period but Pittsburgh strikes 3 times (to WSH's 1) to take a 3-1 lead into intermission. Shots overall are 27-14.

3rd period

Holtby is on the bench for the start of the 3rd period as backup goalie Phillip Grubauer gets put in. Both teams pretty even early and then Shattenkirk takes a dreaded puck over the glass delay of game penalty. The Pens push the lead to 4-1 with Kessel getting his second of the game, blasting one 5-hole on Grubauer.

The Caps don't say die, though, Alex Ovechkin nicely leads a rush and shoots on net, Fleury stops that but Nicklas Backstrom is free to shovel it in the net to bring the score to 4-2 Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh appears to score when Ian Cole's point shot goes in the net but the goal is waived off immediately for Malkin's interference. He barely brushes Grubauer, but he's definitely in the crease and it looks like Grubi is able to re-establish positioning. After a Sullivan challenge, the refs agree and overturn it. 5-2 Pens.

Tom Wilson decides to trash it up like only Tom Wilson can, first he takes out Tom Kuhnhackl with a big, heavy but clean looking Tom-on-Tom violence. Nick Bonino objects and gets in Wilson's face but he flips out, grabs a hold and won't let go and starts throwing punches. That earns him 2 and a game misconduct, nice to see the refs solve a bigger problem before it happens.

Bonus points for Bonino holding the baby at arm's distance letting him get the tears out.

Kuhnhackl blocks a shot with his hand that appears to enter his glove, doesn't play puck for obvious reasons and is penalized for it. He's apparently injured and goes to the locker-room. On the ensuing power play Ovechkin loads up a shot that goes high and nails Ron Hainsey in the head. He drops to the ice in a heap and also leaves.

Caps pull the goalie, Jake Guentzel gets one for the road with an empty netter 6-2.

Some Thoughts

  • A bit surprising that they would scratch Scott Wilson who's played well of late (including the primary assist on the game winner) but makes sense in the scheme that Sheary is a better top-6 option that Wilson.
  • The 2 early penalties in the 2nd means skill guys like Crosby and Kessel barely touch the ice in the first 5 minutes of the period. Bad situations made worse.
  • Kessel breaks the tie in the 2nd period with the lines all scrambled due to Hornqvist's injury. Never ideal to go to 11F, losing a 1st line RW at that, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise for this one play because good old HQ doesn't really have a shot release quite like that. Hockey's a crazy sport.
  • Beautiful plays by Crosby all around the ice. 1st assist was a play he makes so much we're numb to it but it's still glorious. Then playing some defense blocking a shot and advancing play. And he had a nice deflection of a centering pass away in the dying moments of the 2nd period. Just all over the ice, stepping up and helping turn the tide after the Caps dominated the 1st period.
  • Holtby's career against Pittsburgh is interesting. He's only a .917% in the regular season against them and was .914% coming into tonight in 7 playoff games (which will be way lower after this one). He's clearly a great goalie, but something about the scoring chances the Pens are able to generate, it's just tough for any goalie to play well and keep the puck out of the net. We saw it last round against probable Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky and now we're seeing it again against Vezina finalist in the last 2 years (and winner last year) in Holtby.
  • Second game in a row Justin Schultz can't quite defend Alex Ovechkin in space, and second straight game that Ovechkin has directly been involved in a goal. I know Sullivan doesn't care about matchups but Schultz out there against Ovechkin is not a good look for the Penguins.
  • Reffing is always a hot button issue and I'm sure lots of hot air in DC will happen about the Malkin interference. The NHL has brought this on themselves with broad rules. Players are allowed in the crease but not allowed to interfere with the goalie. A lot of gray in that. We're biased but the national broadcast agreed that it should have been a good goal, Malkin didn't do anything to prevent the goalie from making the save. Could have seen that going the other way easily, though. It's just so close and you never know how they will interpret their own rules.
  • The Pens have now won 12 of the last 15 playoff games dating back to last season, including against some of the best teams and goalies around. Truly a golden era of play right now, which who knows how long it will last but it sure is a sweet journey right now.
  • Taking the first 2 on the road is so huge for the series. The Caps are capable of winning any and every game they are involved in, but Fleury was masterful and the skaters took advantage of his great performance by piling up the goals when possible. This might have been Washington's absolute best shot, harder to play any better than they did early (and had 4 power plays in the first 22 minutes, too) but they still couldn't break through. That's gotta be HUGE psychologically. We'll see if they can hit a reset button on the road but right now.

Hornqvist's injury (plus maybe Hainsey and Kuhnhackl) notwithstanding the result couldn't be any better for the Penguins. They stared down the barrel of a desperate Caps team that threw everything AND the kitchen sink at them in the first period but they walked through the fire and didn't get burned. Then the Pens maximized their own chances and did enough damage to put this game out of reach.