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Penguins vs. Capitals Recap: Punxsutawney Phil sees a goal light 7 times. Pittsburgh crushes Caps

Phil Kessel and his best bud Evgeni Malkin each score 2 goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins blow open a game in the 3rd period to defeat the Washington Capitals 7-4.

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins


For the Penguins, Carter Rowney is back from the IR and in the lineup for the first time in a while. Ryan Reaves also draws back into the playing squad with the injury to Conor Sheary.

And for the Capitals, they’re going with the same lines from last game (and our preview earlier today)

1st period

The fireworks start early for the Pens, Riley Sheahan does a nice job to collect a Dmitry Orlov misplay and skates into open space. There’s plenty of that because most of the Caps are puck watching. Bad idea. Sheahan finds Phil Kessel on the doorstep for a slam dunk of a goal just 2:11 into the game.

Sidney Crosby takes a penalty sending the always dangerous Washington power play out, but the Pens penalty kill does what they have been usually doing of late and kill it away without much problem. Ensuing shift Madison Bowey takes Crosby down call.

A bit later, Chandler Stephenson is alone on a breakaway but a big save by Matt Murray keeping that 5-hole tight. Not long after, Alex Ovechkin is sprung on an odd-man rush (not great, Bob!) but his centering pass to Christian Djoos is thwarted by Brian Dumoulin’s back check at the last second.

Djoos makes a boo boo later to lead to 2-0. Great job by Carl Hagelin on the forecheck and to force the issue and turnover. Also some nice hand-eye to settle the puck and Hagelin snaps the puck quickly past Holtby to make it 2-0.

Holtby does make a huge stop on Sheahan to keep the game 2-0 and it pays off when Alex Ovechkin bulls past Kris Letang and Murray makes the save on Ovechkin’s initial shot but the rebound either bounces off Dumoulin or Ovechkin and slides into the net. Vintage Ovechkin to make it 2-1.

The Pens finally get that first power play at the tail end of the period, they don’t score but it carries over...

Shots end up 13-12 in favor of the Pens. Natural Stat Trick has the 5v5 scoring chances at 15-7 Pens.

2nd period

The carryover power play doesn’t take long to strike. Nifty passing by Evgeni Malkin to Crosby to Patric Hornqvist who fires it home from the slot. Holtby’s complaining about some interference, which makes no sense there’s not a Pittsburgh player anywhere near him in the whole sequence. The Caps don’t challenge but Ovechkin does say something to the ref after. Weird. 3-1.

Washington quickly gets their hole back to 1 goal again, Orlov blasts a slapshot from the top of the circles that is absolutely hammered. 3-2.

The Pens put the pressure back on; Crosby passes to Bryan Rust for an open look and his shot beats Holtby..But not the post. The Guentzel-Sheahan-Kessel line puts the Caps way back on their heels with a few great chances but Holtby stands tall.

That would pay off, Evgeny Kuznetsov makes his first noticeable play of the game an important one when he finds a loose puck in a great scoring area and swipes at it and it slides past Murray. 3-3.

Tom Wilson gets a little reckless (shocker) and buries a falling Ian Cole into the boards. Cole would not return in the period after the contact to the head. For his punishment Wilson is assessed a 2-minute penalty but what else do you expect in the NHL. The Pens don’t score on the ensuing power play.

Malkin picks the pocket of Brooks Orpik and goes on a breakaway but is at the end of a shift and doesn’t get much on it. TJ Oshie hits Letang well away from the puck when Oshie anticipates it will come and it doesn’t, Letang takes exception and swings on him a few times, Oshie cross-checks him and they both get minor penalties in the first bit of real nastiness in the game. Gotta love when 2 key players, both having a history of concussions, are trading shots to the head. NHL hockey!

Shots end up 12 a piece in the second period, but it felt like the Caps settled down and got a lot more comfortable as the period went on.

3rd period

Pittsburgh starts well, Malkin flies into the zone past a stationary John Carlson, collects his own rebound and chops it home. 4-3 Pens.

The lead doesn’t last long, Letang gets out of the box and the Pens have 3 defensemen on the ice. They’re a little out of sorts and at the worst possible time, Kuznetsov makes a beauty of a pass to a wide open Ovechkin who has the release to blow the shot by Murray before he even knows what happened. 4-4 game.

Pittsburgh back to the power play when Nicklas Backstrom high-sticks Rust. Rust makes them pay on the 2nd PP unit when he finds the rebound of the Letang shot that Holtby leaves out for Rust to sweep in. 5-4 Pens in the shootout.

The Pens don’t let the Caps back in, Malkin to Kessel and his patented shot down the right side blows clean past the glove of Holtby to make it 6-4 and send old Braden boy to the bench.

Washington heads back to the box on another high stick and the Pens make them pay with another PP goal. Hey, it’s Groundhog’s Day. Malkin from right in front after the puck bounces off Orpik. 7-4 now in what once was a close game.

Malkin goes to the box to give the Caps another PP try, but they can’t convert and it stays a 3 goal game. Hagelin also takes a penalty late in the game to give one last gasp chance but the Pens PK holds and that’s it.

Some thoughts

  • The Guentzel-Sheahan-Kessel line was cooking with gas early on in the game. By far the best line for either teams. Beauty of a pass by Sheahan to thread the needle and find Kessel at the net for the game’s opening goal.
  • Can already hear the rumblings from the fans about Letang’s play on the Ovechkin goal in the 1st. Letang got beat cleanly and didn’t recover. Ovechkin pushed to the net and scored. Tough play in a season of them, but let’s keep in mind it wasn’t Brooks Orpik or anything that put the moves on Letang there.
  • Turns out Holtby may have been mad because Hornqvist raised his glove up. It looked like Hornqvist was trying to call for the point to send the puck down since he and Crosby were both posted in front of the net with only one defender at net-front...But this sure “accidentally on purpose” obstructed the goalie’s view slightly. It was many seconds before the goal and and nothing to do with the play’s outcome, but that’s our Patric. Always driving the opposition up the wall.
  • A big turning point early was Holtby’s stops at key moments. The Caps made it count by scoring soon after. At 2-0 he stones Sheahan on a great chance and good shot. Soon after Ovechkin scores to make it 2-1. In the second the Sheahan line again gets a few great scoring chances, big saves. Fast forward to the next play of note and Kuznetsov makes it 3-3. The Pens could have broke the backs and spirits on those chances but yet they couldn’t until later in the 3rd period when Holtby wasn’t making as many saves.
  • Blowing two 2 goal leads isn’t a good feeling, even though it felt like the Pens were playing pretty well and jumping up to a deserved 3-1 lead. Then, it faltered in the 2nd. Still, tied up nice to see a response of 11-3 in shots to start the period and 4 goals to blow the game open.
  • The Caps were 22-0-0 coming into tonight when scoring 4+ goals this season. Whomp whomp.
  • 7 straight home wins now for Pittsburgh. Seems like they’re always very tough to beat at PPG Paints as the regular season draws to a close, and that’s rounding into form again this season.
  • Crosby had 2 assists, both primary PPA, nice plays...7 shot attempts (4 on goal) a pair of blocked shots and was great in the faceoff circle with a game-high 26 draws and an impressive 62% win rate. Crosby’s 22:21 TOI was by far the highest of any forward in the game...And yet, felt like a very quiet game for 87, especially with Ovechkin, Gene and Phil all getting 2 goals.
  • Ditto a quiet game for Backstom who only played 16:08. He did have 6 shot attempts (4 on net), a hit a giveaway and a takeaway but...Just felt like a non-factor and that’s not very typical for him in these games.
  • Hornqvist looked in a lot of pain and walking to the room gingerly without much weight it seemed on one of his legs after a big 3rd period open ice hit from Orpik.
  • Malkin’s redirect of the Crosby pass for the 7th Pens goal clicked off Orpik and in the net. I think we’re getting close to the point where Orpik has scored more goals for the Penguins (as a member of the Caps) than goals he scored for the Penguins (as a member of the Pens).

Big win over the first place team and the Pens now push their streak to 10 wins in the last 13 games. And that’s now 7 of those 10 wins that have come by 3+ goals, a very dominant stretch indeed. Pittsburgh flexed muscle late and pulled away.

No rest for them as they now travel tonight to Jersey for a quick turnaround against a rested Devils team tomorrow night. Hopefully Hornqvist is good to go, if not they’ll need a call-up and a right winger at that. Bah Gawd, is that Daniel Sprong’s music??