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Penguins/Capitals Recap: Sid called game. Pens complete wild comeback in 5-4 win

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It wasn’t pretty, but it ended up being pretty fun. The Pens slug out a 5-4 OT win over the Washington Capitals

NHL: JAN 19 Capitals at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

Kasperi Kapanen makes his debut with the Penguins, otherwise Pittsburgh’s lineup is the same as the win on Sunday.

The Capitals decide to make a change in net to give Vitek Vanecek a start and bump Daniel Sprong up a line from last game.

First period

The Caps strike first on the rush. After a Juuso Riikola shot attempt is blocked down, Washington breaks out on an odd-man rush. TJ Oshie makes a nice cross-ice pass to Lars Eller for a quick release that beats Casey DeSmith. 1-0 WSH 4:55 into the game.

The Pens are sluggish, the forecheck doesn’t get going, their breakouts aren’t sharp, the defensemen are skating the puck, not sure what is going on here, but it’s not a pretty sight.

Finally, the newest Penguin provides a shot in the arm and some energy. Kapanen controls the puck up the ice and enters the zone with possession (which feels exciting enough for as boring as the game has been) and unleashes a shot on Vanecek. The goalie can’t control the rebound and Teddy Blueger and Colton Sceviour are right there to tap it in. The goal is credited to Sceviour and it’s briefly a tie game.

And by “briefly” I mean the tie lasts all of six seconds. Blueger gets kicked out of the ensuing faceoff by the ref, Sceviour loses it clean and the Caps are off on the rush again. Tom Wilson has room to shoot so he does and DeSmith isn’t out far enough on his angle, even though he’s at the top of the paint- and the puck hits his shoulder and goes in. The woes of being a 6’0” goalie in the NHL! 2-1 Caps.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Pens fall behind by two goals before the end of the period. Wilson cuts to the net and Brian Dumoulin can’t catch up with him (after a bad change) and John Carlson hits Wilson with a nice pass to drive into the net to make it a 3-1 game with 16 seconds left. Not really sure what Brandon Tanev and John Marino were doing to defend Carlson, but that’s kind of how the effort level for the whole team has been.

Shots end up 11-5 Caps, in what I believe is the first full period of the year to be played exclusively at 5v5. The Pens looked like they were going to get really lucky to get out of a very bad period down one goal, or even tied for a second there. But it wasn’t to be.

The thing was, while the Pens did very little, the Caps didn’t do a TON either (until the last few minutes with two Wilson goals, which obviously matter a lot). Corsi events were 16-13 Caps. Scoring chances were 8-7 Pens, high danger chances 4-3 Caps. The Pens were playing their way back into the game when they scored their first goal (the yellow dot, per Natural Stat Trick) but then the bottom dropped out.

Second period

Kapanen looks good in front of the net, then somehow Pettersson and Marino both pinch, no forwards are covering and Washington gets a full 3-on-0 rush up the ice. They make a pass but DeSmith does well to keep the puck out of the net on Carl Hagelin’s shot (thank goodness it was him).

Pittsburgh keeps pushing, the fourth line has been the best and they draw a power play. The Pens get 1:21 of a 5v3 advantage when Lars Eller joins Orlov in the box. It takes a bit and is sloppy but mercifully they move the puck across the ice twice and Bryan Rust is able to bump the puck over for Jake Guentzel to slam home. 3-2 game.

The Pens’ inability to cleanly control the puck in the middle of the ice, or defend the rush, or get good goaltending continues to unfold in a microcosm of the season for Washington’s fourth goal. The Caps collect the puck, get no resistance, throw a puck on net that DeSmith can’t handle and Evgeni Kuznetsov is totally free to swat in the loose rebound. Ugly stuff by the home team who falls behind by two goals again, 4-2.

Washington gets their first power play of the night when Guentzel is whistled for hooking. Tanev catches an Ovechkin slapper and goes down hard. The Pens repeat Washington’s first period miscue when Chad Ruhwedel is sent for a slash to give the Caps a 53 second 5v3.

There’s a goal in that sequence, but....it’s by the Penguins in a 3v5. The Caps show some sloppiness with a lazy dump right to DeSmith. The goalie does a great job to sky the puck into space and Teddy Blueger is behind the whole Caps’ team! Blueger coolly dekes backhand and tucks it through Vanecek’s five hole. 4-3 game.

As the power play expires, Oshie puts a KO hit on Pettersson right at center ice, sending Pittsburgh to a power play but also dropping Pettersson. It’s called a five minute major but after a review is reduced to a two minute interference call.

Malkin cashes in with his first goal of the season on a slapper to make it 4-4.

Shots in the 2nd end up 10-7 overall in favor of the Pens. In total, there has been 33 SOG in this game and eight goals. Coaches have to be in fits seeing team defense in tatters and end-to-end wide open rushes for both teams.

Third period

No Pettersson or Riikola to start the period, so the Pens are down to four defensemen. Lovely.

Game settles down a bit, though Kuznetsov slides a puck under DeSmith, but not quite over the line.

Fatigue setting in now, Pens able to carry play and get the Caps to ice the puck a bit, but Pittsburgh is basically on able for point shots and long range attempts.

Guentzel almost redirects a Letang point shot in with 2 minutes left, bringing the Pens ever so close. Shots in the 3rd are 12-7 Pens. No one can score so again we get..

Overtime

The Pens basically own the puck all overtime, first with a Malkin shift, then Crosby wins a d-zone draw and that’s all she wrote. Nice work by Jake Guentzel to get into the zone and dump the puck, retrieve it, find the point shot. Letang’s shot, watch Crosby’s feet go from 9-to-3 as he hunts the rebound and swings it home. So hard, yet so easy. That’s art. 5-4, the Pens win!

Some thoughts

  • It took over seven minutes in the game for the Pens to get a shot on goal. By then they were down 1-0.
  • Players at the bottom of the lineup getting minutes slashed once being on ice for a goal against is a staple these days (see Lafferty, Daniel, err Sam who got bounced off the team after being at fault for a goal last game). Riikola-Ruhwedel being on for the first goal saw them play 3:15 and 3:35 in the first period, that was entirely ES. Brian Dumoulin played 9:24, Kris Letang 9:20. John Marino had 7:20 in the first period and Marcus Pettersson had 6:57 as the team basically was just double-shifting the top two pairs for the majority of the period.
  • The Pens would be down to 4 defensemen, and not by choice at the end of the game, double-shifting Dumoulin/Letang and Ruhwedel/Marino. Luckily, they held up well, and were able to play most the period not in their own end.
  • A minor line change in strategy was made for the start of the second; Bryan Rust goes to play with Mark Jankowski and Jared McCann, Brandon Tanev bumps up to join Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker.
  • That fourth goal against really drives home the lack of preseason and sloppiness. A forwards doesn’t track back, Tanev is in the picture but not close to recognizing the numbers against. Marino left a wide gap on his player for the initial shot. Pettersson was playing more the front area than a player and effectively of no use when the big rebound kicked out at a sharp angle.
  • Then again, the Pens’ third goal on a 3v5 showed the sloppiness from Washington just the same. It’s a process everyone in the league is dealing with having next to no time to ramp up, and it’s showing all over the ice.
  • And it really can’t be overstated how big that play by DeSmith and Blueger was. With a 5v3 for 51 seconds, the Caps were fixing to make it a 5-2 game and drive a stake into the Pens’ proverbial hearts. Instead, it ends up not just with Pittsburgh escaping with it 4-2 but actually scoring to make it 4-3.
  • Wonder if player safety will be giving Oshie a call. Blindside hit that knocked a player out of the game and was a touch late, that was the type of needless hard collision the NHL is supposedly trying to get out of the game.

Unlocking the keys to the game (from the preview)

#1 Penalty woes. Both teams have cut major ruts to the penalty box. Both teams played a clean first, but Washington broke down by taking two quick penalties, which allowed the Pens to cut their lead to one goal at 3-2. Then in the second period, the Penguins ended up taking two penalties in the same sequence, though Blueger’s unlikely goal helped a lot. Oshie’s big hit gave the Pens another special teams goal by Malkin to score the game. No too many men bench minor for Pittsburgh at least!

#2 Top six getting on track. Guentzel and Malkin scored and Crosby recorded two assists, albeit all on power plays. Then Guentzel, Letang and Crosby combined for the OT winner. Has to feel nice for those guys to get rewarded and get in motion, wasn’t the smoothest or at a usual 5v5, but the big guns got on the board often, and the Pens won. Pretty successful formula.

#3 Questions in each net. The Pens decided to ride the winning hand of DeSmith from last game. He gave up goals in bunches, including Wilson’s first goal on an unscreened shot from distance that you sure would like a goalie to stop, especially literally seconds after the Pens tied the game at 1-1. But he also stopped a 3-on-0 rush and made a great play to start a 3v5 goal, so there was some good with the bad. On the flip side, Vanecek was was not exactly standing on his head either and also at the mercy of some poor team defense.

In all a win is a win. Nice for the Pens to rally back from 2 two goal deficits and pick up two points at the end of the night. Now, we wait to see and hear how long their missing defensemen might be out.