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Pens-Caps Recap: Penguins break another win streak with 5-3 win over Capitals.

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Evgeni Malkin reaches the 1,000 point plateau as Penguins continue streak snapping ways with 5-3 comeback victory over the hated Capitals.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Here are your lineups for this evening’s contest, starting with the Penguins.

No Zach Aston-Reese due to a lower-body injury. Recent call-up Joseph Blandisi slots in for his first game since January 18th while Teddy Blueger is promoted to the second line with Aston-Reese out of the lineup. Matt Murray is back in between the pipes.

Now for the visiting Washington Capitals, winners of seven straight coming in.

Same lineup they have rolled with throughout their winning streak. Braden Holtby gets the nod in goal for the Caps. Carl Hagelin makes his return to Pittsburgh for the first time since being traded away in November.

First Period

Less than a minute into the contest and the Penguins found themselves on the penalty kill after Jake Guentzel was called for holding Alex Ovechkin. On the power play, Ovechkin had two looks from his spot at the face-off dot but the first was blocked by Jared McCann and he whiffed on the second.

After a strong penalty kill effort the Penguins were rewarded with a power play of their own. Lars Eller was whistled for kneeing and the Penguins went to man advantage after a brief 4-on-4 sequence.

Not much going on for the Penguins during the Eller minor and Capitals killed it off after only one shot on target. Both sides started the game with a missed opportunity on the power play as the game remained scoreless through the opening five minutes.

A flurry right in front of Holtby saw the Penguins have numerous chances at scoring the first goal but their repeated attempts were denied by either Holtby or his defenders.

Midway through the first period and the game has the feel of another playoff meeting between the two Metro rivals. Few whistles combined with action up and down the ice resulted in a very entertaining opening 10 minutes but neither side could find an ice breaker. John Carlson came close with a look at a wide open net but Justin Schultz impeded his shot with a timely poke check.

During the first commercial break of the evening, the Penguins honored Carl Hagelin with a special video commemorating his time in Pittsburgh. Hagelin joined the Penguins during the 2015-16 season, winning two Stanley Cups with the club before being traded away in November.

Hagelin was serenaded with a standing ovation by the crowd and showed his appreciation to the fans following the video.

The second half of the first period followed the same theme as the first half with action up and down the ice but nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. That all changed in the dying moments of the period courtesy of Jakub Vrana.

Little resistance from the Pens defense allowed the Caps to easily enter the zone where Vrana collected a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and wired a shot over the shoulder of Matt Murray for a 1-0 Capitals lead that they eventually carried into the intermission.

Second Period

Just over a minute into the second period the Penguins were given a good chance to bring the score even when Alex Ovechkin was whistled for a high sticking penalty against Patric Hornqvist. One shot is all the Penguins could muster on a rather powerless power play and Ovechkin was set free with the 1-0 Capitals lead still intact.

During a break in play, the Penguins honored Humboldt Broncos crash survivor Layne Matechuk who was in attendance. Matechuk suffered a traumatic brain injury in last April’s tragic crash and was invited to the game by the Penguins where he met Sidney Crosby and took in the morning skate.

Shortly after passing the midway point of the second period, the Capitals doubled their lead and once again it was Jakub Vrana getting the goal. Vrana let go a harmless shot from the right circle that Murray seemed to simply blocker away but the puck bounced straight up in the air, landed on his back, and trickled across the line for a 2-0 Capitals advantage.

Just as things were looking bleak for the Penguins, they found some kind of magic and completely flipped the game on its head in less than two minutes of game time.

It all started when Jared McCann picked the pocket of Evgeny Kuznetsov as he tried to exit the zone. Off the turnover, McCann turned up ice, created a 2-on-1, and delivered a pass right on the tape of Jake Guentzel who deposited it past Holtby to cut the deficit to 2-1.

That score was leveled 47 seconds later when Sidney Crosby skated under an outlet pass from Justin Schultz and skated in on Holtby made the bold decision to make a play on the skater rather than the puck and Crosby slid the puck underneath his pads to bring the team back to even terms.

Before you could even catch your breath and comprehend what was happening, the Penguins scored a third time to take a 3-2 off a power play goal from Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin drew a hooking penalty then help set up Crosby who finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe sequence with his second goal in 61 seconds for the Penguins first lead of the night.

With his assist on the Crosby power play marker, Evgeni Malkin moved to 999 career points, just one shy of that coveted 1,000 point mark.

Surrendering three goals in only 1:48 serves as quite a gut punch but the Capitals were able to settle down and force pressure on the Penguins in the offensive zone as the second period wound down. Andre Burakovsky rang a shot off the post from in tight and the Penguins survived the rest of the period unscathed to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.

Third Period

For two periods, Tom Wilson managed to keep his cool but everything boiled over early in the third period. Wilson challenged Guentzel after a whistle but newly acquired defenseman Erik Gudbranson stepped in and tackled Wilson to the ice, resulting in matching penalties and 4-on-4 play for two minutes.

Time ticked closer to the 10 minute mark of the final period with the Penguins still clinging to their 3-2 lead. Both teams were creating chances but both goalies were up to the task. Murray made an elbow save on Backstrom which was answered on the other end by Holtby shutting down Malkin.

A mental mistake by the Capitals saw them called for too many men on the ice and the Penguins were headed back to the power play with under 10 minutes remaining. A lot of possession with the man advantage eventually paid off for the Pens as they doubled their lead. Phil Kessel collected a rebound from his typical power play spot and buried to put the Pens up 4-2 late in the third period.

The secondary assist on Kessel’s power play marker went to Evgeni Malkin, putting him at the 1,000 point mark for his illustrious NHL career.

To answer the Capitals earlier mental mistake, the Penguins committed one of their own and were whistled for too many men, sending the Capitals to the power play needing a goal to get back in the game. Eerily similar to the Kessel goal moments before, John Carlson collected a rebound off a point shot from Ovechkin and finished upstairs on Murray to pull the Capitals within 4-3 with six minutes left.

Evgeni Malkin wasn’t the only Russian to hit a milestone on Tuesday night. With his assist on the Carlson tally, Alex Ovechkin hit 1,200 points in his NHL career.

Back in the game, the Capitals kept forcing the issue in search of an equalizer but their hopes were dashed in the final minute of play when Jared McCann corralled a loose puck and calmly sent it from his own zone into the empty net to secure a 5-3 victory for the Penguins.

Postgame Thoughts

  • Hockey is a crazy game that can swing in the blink of an eye. The Penguins proved that tonight.
  • Sidney Crosby is not from this planet but you already knew that.
  • Decent chance the Penguins have two 40-goal scorers this season.
  • A few weeks back, Adam Gretz wrote on the site how Jared McCann will turn out to be the real prize from the Derick Brassard trade. Every game, McCann just further proves his point.
  • Power play showed up in a big way tonight. Will need that to continue going forward.
  • We saw the good and bad Matt Murray tonight. Fortunately for the Penguins, the good Murray showed up when needed most.
  • Tom Wilson managed to not decapitate anyone but he seemed to have a special interest in going after Jake Guentzel all night.
  • Evgeni Malkin continues to show just how meaningless that NHL Top 100 list really is.
  • Crucial win with the Hurricanes winning last night and the Blue Jackets doing the same this evening.
  • Games will only continue to get bigger as they roll along. See you Thursday night. Go Pens.