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Game 4 Recap: Jake the Snake puts sleeper hold on the Capitals in Penguins win

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Jake Guentzel scores 2 goals, Sid Crosby with 2 assists and Evgeni Malkin with a PPG GWG. Yes, please!

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Lineups

Hey Carl..Good to see you! Carl Hagelin is back in the lineup for the Penguins.

1st period

Coach Mike Sullivan gets wily, the starting line is Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist. They didn’t even warm up together! Jamie Oleksiak and Justin Schultz are the d-pair which is also new.

Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby get Dominik Simon as a winger. And they draw a penalty on their first shift when John Carlson hooks Crosby just 1:10 into the contest. The Pens top PP gets great zone time and some looks on net, but no goal.

About halfway through the period Capitals rookie Shane Gersich gets a breakaway from the blueline in but Matt Murray stop his shot.

Late in the period Alex Ovechkin hits Sidney Crosby with a clean check, the puck goes the other way and Alex Chiasson gets a sneaky good scoring chance just before the buzzer but Murray stops him.

Pens leading in 5v5 shot attempts 16-11 and overall shots on goal 9-7 but it’s 0-0 after 20.

2nd period

Disaster of a start to the period, first Evgeni Malkin slashes someone then Dmitry Orlov stuns Murray with a slapper that smacks into the collarbone area. Murray would be down for a second but shake it off and stay in the game. Pens kill off the penalty.

Crosby sets up Schultz after pulling Holtby out of the crease but Orlov is in great position to block it and save a goal.

Pittsburgh gets a PP of their own but don’t score on it.

But they do finally take their first 1-0 lead of this series from the stick of the red hot Jake Guentzel. Nice play by Dominik Simon to drop to Crosby, the captain works the puck and it finds the kid in front of the net and Guentzel swats it past Holtby seconds before Orlov can clean him out with a cross-check to the back. 1-0 Pittsburgh.

A bit later Guentzel trips a Cap in the neutral zone so it’s a second Washington power play and they make it count with T.J. Oshie finding just enough of a soft spot in the slot to power a puck that might have hit Ruhwedel in front on its way past Murray. 1-1.

Guentzel then lightly slashes Kuznetsov who cries bloody murder and fakes an owie (“usually you shake the hand that gets hit” Doc Emerick mused on the replay) and the Caps get another power play. After the whistle Ovechkin punched Kris Letang in the face but the refs let that one go. Fittingly, the Hockey Gods (and the Pens PK) don’t allow a goal, though the Caps get 4 shots and several good chances on it.

Keeping in-tune with the theme of the game “goal scorers taking a penalty” Oshie goes to the sin bin for interfering with Brian Dumoulin with 3:50 left in the period.

There’s another near-goal controversy with Malkin hitting the post and on the scramble trying to pickle-stab it in and another very close call just like Patric Hornqvist in Game 2. But this time the video is good enough for the refs to tell it IS in. Good goal. 2-1 Pens with 2:29 left to go.

Maybe Caps fans can explain this one away too with parallax and how mountains are made, but even they are going to have to bend over backwards further than normal to think this isn’t in the net.

Barry Trotz uses his challenge for goalie interference on Holtby, but Brooks Orpik rodeo’d PH72 around the crease so challenge loss for the Caps. Hornqvist really doesn’t even touch Holtby so it’s a pretty quick and easy over-rule. And he had a lot of time to look at it, must have been just a classic grasper move in a close game on a tight sequence to hope the refs would take a goal off the board. Hey, it’s NHL officiating, you never know what they may see. But, 2-1 stands, and as it should.

Period ends. Shots in the period 11-8 WSH, but 18-17 PIT overall in the game. Pens scored 2 goals on 8 shots in the period, prettay prettay good.

3rd period

Pens pack the house and try to bleed the clock, Caps put on a lot of pressure. 5v5 Shot attempts in the entire 3rd period are 14-11 Washington but it felt like they were in the Pens zone a lot more than that stat suggests.

The Caps pull Holtby but they put 7 skaters on the ice and you can’t do that. Penalty on them with 1:11 left. Crosby makes a nice play to elude an Ovechkin slash and puts the puck on the tap of Guentzel. The kid is scoring every game with a goalie IN the net, so this empty cage is too easy. 3-1 for the insurance.

Behind the play, Oshie decides he can’t let a full game go by without a Capital checking a Penguin in the head and leaps into Letang for no reason. Finish your check, sure, but leaving feet totally to fly at a skull? In this series? Sigh, have we learned nothing? What a pissbaby, you’d think he would be a better loser by now with years of practice.

Anyways, Pens win 3-1. Tie the series and make it a defacto best of 3 now. Bring on Washington on Saturday night for the crucial Game 5, the job is halfway done.

6 down, 10 to go.

Some thoughts

  • It’s now been 14 periods since a non-Crosby line member scored at even strength. Don’t save all them goals forever, boys. And still not a one Pittsburgh goal has been scored in this series without Sidney Crosby’s feet on the ice (2 assists tonight).
  • Funny hidden wrinkle that’s probably only funny to me: Guentzel scores a goal then takes a penalty and then Oshie scores while he’s in the box. Later Oshie scores a penalty and the Pens score while he’s in the box.
  • Speaking of going to the box, that’s minor penalties in his last 5 straight games for Malkin. Gotta stay cleaner than that. Scoring on the power play atones for that big time (especially when it holds up for the GWG) but still.
  • Chad Ruhwedel made a really nice play skating back and breaking up a Jakub Vrana breakaway without giving up a shot or taking a penalty. Nice job by him. Sullivan switched the lower 2 d-pairs at the last moment to Maatta-Ruhwedel and Oleksiak-Schultz and the Pens conceded 0 even strength goals against and only 21 shots against all night, and only 15 of them at 5v5. Gotta really like that if you’re Sullivan moving forward.
  • Recently I wrote something about not making a default injury excuse for Phil Kessel but gotta walk that back. Saw Phil in the 2nd period, while the Pens were on the PP, have the puck on the left side, no one harassing him. He loads up for a wrist shot...And whiffs. Don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like that in 3 years of being on this team. Wasn’t like he was receiving a pass or trying to one-time it or anything, he had the puck but something is just off with him right now.
  • Which makes you wonder...75% (or whatever % it is) of Kessel or 100% of Daniel Sprong, what would be better? They’re basically the same sort of offense-first right wing that can score on any shift but also isn’t going to add much when he doesn’t have the puck. Now I totally don’t expect the Pens to be bold enough to scratch Kessel and play a rookie for Game 5 of a freaking playoff game...But it’s interesting food for thought.
  • Murray got stunned by the high slap shot, but hung very tough. Kid is a battler you gotta give him that. Great bounce-back for him. Still fighting the puck a little (though not nearly as much as last game) and not making everything as smooth as when he’s on tip top of his game, but you’ll take this output any day with 20 saves on 21 shots. Kudos to the Pens skaters in front of him for pressuring the puck, taking away shooting lanes, blocking 13 shots and only letting 21 Washington shots on target. Great effort there.
  • Derick Brassard, you’re in a slump! How will you get out of it? Not sure but here’s Tom Kuhnhackl as your LW and just 10:50 minutes of ice time, good luck! The old dilemma of getting demoted for not performing, but how can you do better when getting less?
  • Ovechkin didn’t have a shot on goal. He only had 2 shot attempts, both missed the net. With 7 hits he was a physical presence to go along with 1 takeaway and 2 giveaways. It was the first time all series #8 didn’t score. Maybe having a new wing in Devante Smith-Pelley through him off, but he didn’t seem nearly as dangerous or visible at even as previous games. Not sure how long that will last, but you’ll take it every time.
  • One guy who did have shots on goal tonight was Guentzel. 7 of em. 2 in the back of the net. Kid is just an unstoppable force of nature right now and his playoff performance when taken into context with last year is incredible. Last year he had 21 points in the playoffs, awesome for a rookie. His 13 goals lead the NHL. Well after tonight he’s matched those 21 points and has a current league-high 10 goals. The Pens are only halfway through the second round. The best of superlatives aren’t enough.

Crucial win for the Pens, close hard fought game that goes their way. They did a lot right, got more chances and goals. It wasn’t perfect but it was better than last time out. Series shifts back to DC.