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Game 4 Recap: BURY NISKANEN! Pens find a way to win

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It wasn't pretty but it sort of was. The Washington Capitals flex their muscle on the undermanned Pittsburgh Penguins but the Pens find a way to win Game 4 and take a 3-1 series lead.

Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

Pregame

Penguins forced to switch things up with Crosby and Sheary injured-  Scott Wilson and Carter Rowney get back in the lineup.

1st period

Pittsburgh strikes first, great pass up by Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist splits the improvised pair of Karl Alzner and Brooks Orpik who miscommunicate on who should pick Hornqvist up. No one does so he skates in alone and beats Braden Holtby up high to make it 1-0.

That's the only goal of the period, Pittsburgh gets a few power plays but can't convert, Washington gets one at the end but don't either. Shots 12-9 Washington but the play is pretty even.

And, I'm not one for hyperbole, but Marc-Andre Fleury is in the Dominik Hasek zone right now, just controlled chaos in the crease battling for every puck. Quite the sight to see.

2nd period

Dmitry Orlov with a huge mistake, accidentally knocks an otherwise harmless centering pass right into his own net to make it 2-0 Pens. The only way that could have been more karma-rific would be for it to happen to hatchet boy Matt Niskanen.

At this point the Capitals get mad and do something about it. The Pens with terrible puck management, get trapped often and stand still and it starts to cost them. A turnover puts the puck on the stick of Evgeny Kuznetsov with plenty of time and space and oh boy that's about the last thing you want to see. 2-1.

72 seconds later the Caps draw even, again keeping the pressure off and Pittsburgh scrambling defensively, Nate Schmidt rips a hard high shot to the top corner of the net through traffic. 2-2.

Pittsburgh holds on for dear life and gets their 3rd power play of the day and they finally break through. Evgeni Malkin lays out a beauty of a pass for Justin Schultz to step into and he one-times it right by Holtby. 3-2 Pens again.

Just like last game, the Capitals almost had another accident when Tom Wilson charges in knee first (with no puck in sight, mind you) on Chris Kunitz who luckily is able to dodge it. Only thing bad about this is it wasn't a foot closer to the boards so he could have really ate it.

Shots 17-4 Washington in the period, they're throwing everything at net and aided by the turnovers but goals were still 2-2 in the period.

Shot difference is ugly but the few the Pens are getting are from good areas (plus an own goal always helps)

3rd period

The 3rd period is how I imagine doing hard drugs would be. Just insane blood pressure.

Ian Cole laying out Justin Williams tattoo it on my face!

(And hey, he even didn't hit him with a stick, what a novel concept!)

The Caps push hard but the defense is trying to block everything and Fleury's taking care of anything else on target. Game, set, almost match bitches.

Some Thoughts

  • 14 out of the 18 skaters for the Pens blocked a shot tonight. Just a total team commitment to pay the price.
  • Malkin with all the focus on him had an assist on the Schultz PPG (and eventual GWG, though who knew at the time) and maybe even more importantly went 13-4 in the faceoff circle which I'm guessing is about his best performance ever. The Pens needed Big Gene to step up and be the man, and by God he was.
  • The other big guy in the absence of Crosby, Phil Kessel had 6 shot attempts (most on team), didn't make anything happen but still was there. Churning, working, like everyone else.
  • Tom Kuhnhackl had himself a GAME tonight. Rushing on the forecheck, throwing himself in shooting and passing lanes, breaking up Caps passes. Maybe the best game he's had in the NHL.
  • Bryan Rust also very heroic. With the puck on his stick in the neutral zone he's about the best player in the league right now. He can bank it off the wall, turn the D and use his speed to get the puck back. Or just use his speed to drive wide and into the zone. Great stuff by him tonight.
  • Patric Hornqvist just is playoff hockey. Scores a huge game opening goal. Blocks a shot off his knee, is clearly hobbled, keeps on going. What a machine.
  • Note on the GIF of Schmidt's goal only one Penguin player is skating, the rest standing around. They were so disjointed in the 2nd and that's going to catch up if it continues.
  • If the Caps lose this series, expect a lot of scrutiny on coach Barry Trotz for going with 7D. 7D is, well, an odd number considering defensemen play in pairs of 2. There's good reason that the standard is 6. A pair of Orpik-Alzner who don't play much together got burnt early and simply put, that's just plain bad coaching to have players in unfamiliar territory this time of year, and those types of pairs are bound to happen with an uneven 7 cycling through.
  • But so too was execution. The Caps took 5 penalties in the offensive zone tonight. On the road. Down 2-1 at the time in the series. That's just unfathomable.
  • Matt Niskanen is going to get booed in Pittsburgh every time he touches the puck for the rest of his career, no matter what team he plays for or how long time passes. Tough luck, bub.

Bring it home for us, Mario

Both teams get an extra day off to regroup, Game 5 comes up on Saturday night with the Pens having the chance to finish these jerks off. Only thing left is to do it.