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Game 3 Preview: Pens return home

All you need to know for the Penguins and Caps game tonight!

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images


Washington Capitals (1-1) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1)

Start time: 7:30 PM

How to watch: NBCSN nationally. Online find out how to stream on

SBN troll den: Japers Rink

Series to date: The Pens exploded for three goals in a five minute span to tip the balance and take Game 1. Then, as is Caps playoff history, they injured a player after a very good start for them in Game 2 and held on for a win as the series shifts back to Pittsburgh tied at a game a piece.

Eye on the Pens

Practice was a busy time yesterday, with Evgeni Malkin taking full part and looking good...Just as he was on Saturday and didn’t play on Sunday. Hopefully though that was a precaution since the team was up 1-0 to give him a few more extra days off as a precaution not to rush. Now tied 1-1, it’s time to unleash the Malkin if he is up for it, which he seems to be.

Carl Hagelin hinted he thought could play “at some point” in this series, but guessing not today.

—Dumoulin did practice on his normal pair and said he felt pretty good on Monday. Does that mean he can play tonight? Would seem odd to use him in practice on his normal spot if there wasn’t a possibility.

And how are the Pens doing on the 5 Keys to the Series from last week? Let’s take a quick peak:

#1: Power Play vs. Discipline

No problems here, Pittsburgh’s been short-handed just 4 times so far in the series, with the Caps scoring only 1 goal (by their 2nd unit in Game 2 at the very tail end of a PP at that).

The discipline has been admirable after Tom Wilson’s shoulder to the head of Dumoulin, no one freaked out. Nor when Matt Niskanen went knee-on-knee with Jake Guentzel.

“Teams have tried different tactics to try and play against us in order to try and beat us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Sometimes it’s physical play and aggression. That doesn’t mean our team doesn’t have physical play or pushback. We certainly do. But we won’t get caught up playing someone else’s game. We’ll play our game.”

So far the Pens get good marks for sticking to their game and largely keeping the Washington power play as a non-factor. The longer that happens, the better the odds become.

#2 Getting that first goal

Well this has been a disaster. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored just 17 seconds into Game 1 and Alex Ovechkin scored 1:26 into Game 2. In both games the Caps also tacked on the game’s second goal, forcing the Pens largely to play from behind. Not ideal in the least. Getting off to better starts will be paramount for the rest of the series.

#3 Unlikely heroes

Another point that needs some major attention. Secondary scoring has completely dried up with only the Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist line scoring all 4 goals for Pittsburgh in the series (counting regular defensive partner Kris Letang and his goal with the 1st line on the ice).

Hopefully the return of Malkin will give a boost and help some others down the lineup generate and maybe even convert on chances.

Taking away Bryan Rust’s empty net goal vs. Philly in Game 6, there have only been 2 goals scored in the last 4 games by non-first line players (Rust in G5 vs Philly and Hagelin in G6 prior to his injury). That’s simply not going to cut it for very long. Guys like Phil Kessel, Derick Brassard and Conor Sheary have to get it going.

#4 Clinging to health

This has been bad with Malkin and Hagelin out the first two games, costing depth and pushing players like Dominik Simon into bigger roles. The question mark about Dumoulin looms large too as one of the team’s most important players given his top pairing role.

#5 Battle in the net

Hasn’t really played out too much yet. Matt Murray has been bombarded with odd man rushes against, four of the five goals he has surrendered this series has been the result of a defensive breakdown giving a high-skilled Washington player a ton of ice and space to pick a corner on him. Murray’s also made some high-quality saves to keep the team close.

Holtby for his part was really sharp in Game 2, even Game 1 too save those few minutes the Pens put a barrage on him. That seems to be the story of the 2016 and 2017 series, if Pittsburgh generates the chances they can put 3 or 4 goals up on the board in any given game on Holtby and the Caps. Just gotta keep working to earn the chances.

—So far other than a few points, the Pens haven’t won much of our keys to the series. The series is tied and there’s a long way to go, hopefully they can flip the script here with the two home games and get out to better starts and maybe just maybe get some production from besides the Crosby line. That would be grand!

And in the other corner, the perennial 2nd round runners up

No changes for the Caps expected for Game 3.