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Pens-Caps Game 1 Recap: Capitals take early lead, but Penguins score 3 goals in third period, win 3-2

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The two divisional foes kicked off their latest postseason meeting to decide one of the participants in the Eastern Conference Final.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Pregame:

With no Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for the series opener, the Pittsburgh Penguins marched into the nation’s capital with the same aspirations as the last two years: get by the Washington Capitals by any means necessary to further their hopes for a three-peat.

Lineups:

1st Period

17 seconds into the game, Evgeny Kuznetsov was sprung into the offesnive zone and beat Matt Murray on the glove side for an early 1-0 lead.

Both teams created a very fast and physical pace early on. However, as the clock ticked, the Penguins were being exposed defensively, allowing many odd-man rushes throughout the frame.

The Penguins were given a few nice chances to equalize, but a combination of Braden Holtby and bad luck kept the score at 1-0 for the the period.

The period would come to a close with the Caps holding onto their 1-goal lead.

Stats after one:

2nd Period

Mere seconds into the second period, Jake Guentzel, going with the theme of the night, rang the puck off the post... again.

Tom Wilson was called for interference on Sidney Crosby, giving the Penguins their first, and the game’s first, power-play. The penalty would be killed by Washington.

Both teams were trading barbs back and forth. Part of the reason the game was still so close was because of saves like these:

Braden Holtby was putting on a masterclass between the pipes. The Pens were peppering the goaltender towards the end of the period, but the puck did not find the back of the net.

Forty minutes were in the books and the Capitals were still clinging to their 1-0 lead.

Stats after two periods:

3rd Period

28 seconds into the final frame, Alex Ovechkin, on an odd-man rush, sniped one past the glove of Murray for a 2-0 lead.

Minutes later, Patric Hornqvist would respond for the Pens. A shot from Justin Schultz found the stick of Horny for the deflection to halve the deficit.

Sidney Crosby would tie the game after a great play to keep the puck in the zone by Guentzel. Two goals were scored in the span of 2:21.

Jake Guentzel would score the go-ahead goal after Holtby was trying to regain his positioning in the blue paint after misplaying the puck behind the net.

Chandler Stephenson was called for high-sticking, but Guentzel was called for the same penalty 32 seconds into the Pens’ power-play. The short Capitals power-play was killed.

Time would begin to wind down considerably with the Pens still up by a goal. Crunch time was kicking in.

Matt Murray made another tremendous save with two minutes left in regulation. The Penguins were committing way too many turnovers in their own zone, but the Caps couldn't tickle the twine for the tie.

After dealing with the extra-attacker for almost two minutes, the Penguins were able to withstand the onslaught from Washington and would WIN Game 1 by a score of 3-2. And exhale.

Final Thoughts

  • Oh my goodness. What a rollercoaster of a game. After the Pens went down 2-0, I was ready to write them off. Hooo boy. Glad I didn't.
  • The sheer resilience by the Penguins is something to marvel at. That “never say die” attitude certainly helped them tonight.
  • The two goals in 2:21 is something that will define this game and potentially the series, depending on how it plays out.
  • On the negative side, the team needs to clean up the odd-man rushes ASAP. They were lucky Ovechkin missed an open net earlier in the game or we may be discussing a different outcome.
  • Washington and Pittsburgh will meet for Game 2 on Sunday. Take all the time to recuperate and rest up after one crazy game. Let’s Go Pens.