There’s still no Evgeni Malkin, obviously, but otherwise the Penguins unveil a lineup with no other injuries/illnesses for the first time this season! That’s progress, people! Welcome back Sidney Crosby, Brian Dumoulin, Mike Sullivan and welcome back again Marcus Pettersson and Chad Ruhwedel.
Guess who's back? Back again?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 14, 2021
The answer: Sidney Crosby, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, Chad Ruhwedel, and Coach Sullivan pic.twitter.com/E5jWfvFuTQ
Just a few minutes in and the Pens get the game’s first power play with Daniel Sprong going off for hold. The top power play is back to the first line (87, 59, 17) plus Letang at the back and Jeff Carter. It doesn’t go well though, with the Capitals scoring on a shorthanded rush. Crosby makes a pretty nifty little deflection pass to Carter, but it looks like the creative play surprises Carter and he doesn’t handle the puck. Bryan Rust gets his skates mixed up, leading for the Caps to get a 2-on-1. Defenseman Martin Fehervary wrists a hard shot short-side on Tristan Jarry. 1-0 Washington just 4:25 in.
2 on 1 shorthanded beauty! pic.twitter.com/7rJ5Lnk6Qq— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 15, 2021
And before the power play expires, Pittsburgh takes a penalty with Kasperi Kapanen going for holding. The PK holds and doesn’t allow Washington that many easy zone entries.
Not a lot of whistles for a while, and Washington is the next to score again. Alex Ovechkin comes streaking down the right side on a rush where the Pens’ defensive structure is not there. Ovechkin winds up for a big slapper, but it’s a fake and he instead makes a nice cross-ice pass to Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway unloads quickly and Jarry can’t move laterally in time. 2-0 Caps with 5:55 left in the first.
But Jake Guentzel draws the Pens back within one before the end of the first. At 1:20 left, Guentzel collected a Kris Letang shot/pass, swung his body around in a fluid motion and deked to his forehand to be able and slide the puck past Vitek Vanecek. 2-1 WSH lead.
Shots in the first period are 9-8 in favor of Washington. One extra shot and one extra goal for the home team through 20.
Pittsburgh gets a power play just 12 seconds into the period with the youngster Connor McMichael going off for hooking. They don’t score, but they don’t give up a goal either so that’s some progress.
The Caps then get the better of the scoring chances with Ovechkin feeding Carl Hagelin for a shot that Jarry made a great save on. Then Evgeny Kuznetsov got a breakaway and went for his backhand five-hole shot he’s used so much that beat Jarry but luckily trickled to the corner of the rink and not the net.
Washington gets a second power play with Carter going off for slashing, they can’t take advantage.
But with 3:49 left in the second, the Caps re-extend their lead to two goals. Dumoulin’s clearing pass gets knocked down by Conor Sheary, who moves it to Lars Eller. Eller makes a really nice play going to the net and making a tremendous saucer pass that seemingly got about two feet of air. By the time it lands, Daniel Sprong was able to slam it to the top shelf past Jarry. 3-1 game.
The Caps gain even more breathing room by scoring with 1:24 left. The Pens are totally scrambling in their own zone and the puck is bouncing around everywhere. It eventually makes it to Conor Sheary who finds curls out to the middle and the far side of the net on Jarry. 4-1 Caps.
Disaster for the Pens to fall apart in the last five minutes of the period and lose touch with the game, the Caps pressure really started to wear on Pittsburgh and eventually they broke through with a couple more goals. Shots in the second were 14-9 in favor of Washington.
Third starts and looks more like the end of the second, which is isn’t very good for the Pens.
The Washington forecheck gets to Dumoulin who turns the puck over again after absorbing hits from two players and it ends up on the stick of Kuznetsov all alone and in front of the net. Bad stuff, he picks the top corner on Jarry and hits it. 5-1 game.
Evan Rodrigues finds room and wheels around in the offensive zone and whips a puck past Vanecek but hits the post. Just not the Pens night.
Frustration mounts as Crosby gets called with a penalty and then has some words for Kuznetsov. Crosby to the box for cross-checking, which gives Washington a third power play of the evening. It’s quickly a goal against, when Kuznetsov’s stretch pass sends Tom Wilson in ahead of Dumoulin and Wilson is able to deke backhand and convert through the five hole. The lead is extended to 6-1.
The Caps don’t let up but the Pens are able to stabilize at least to the point to avoid any more embarrassment on the night.
- One small positive is there was some good scouting and coaching from the Penguins to take away the Caps’ typical power play zone entry to the right side of the ice. That was well-defended and helped the Pens prevent the Caps from getting set up in the offensive zone early in the game. The one time the Washington power play worked? A stretch pass and zone entry towards the right side that Pittsburgh didn’t defend well.
- However, along the boards and in their own zone on 5v5, the Pens were an absolute mess. Washington’s forecheck eliminated time for the Pittsburgh defenders, and often turned into turnovers and a couple times, goals against.
- By the middle of the second period, the Pens very much looked like they played a game in Ottawa the night before and the Caps looked like a rested bunch. This is a reversal of fortune from earlier in the season when Pittsburgh benefited from a couple of other teams playing the night before when they did not. All evens out.
- It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback or second guess when a team looks bad, but moving Evan Rodrigues from centering a line with Zucker and Kapanen that was the team’s best to putting him on the wing with Brian Boyle was...not an idea that paid off. About the only good moment for Rodrigues was an individually generated effort that ended up hitting the post in the third period.
- It didn’t help that this was perhaps the worst game for Jeff Carter as a Penguin. On ice for three goals against, mostly anonymous other than taking a penalty. Just didn’t click with his new line, but not much was clicking for anyone.
- Sullivan didn’t go to any line changes or shuffling. Game got away from them and instead of trying to switch it up it looked like they just wanted to get out of town as quickly as possible.
- Quiet, if not outright bad games for the returnees. Dumoulin was the victim of a few goals against where the sequence started with the puck on his stick and ended up in his net. Crosby had one shot on goal, a long-range, little hope slap shot in the third period. Can’t be easy to jump in after 10 days of isolation with not so much as a practice but that showed in this one. Those guys of course won’t be bad for long once getting into the swing of things, but it surely wasn’t just plug and play into top line/pair roles.
- Pittsburgh falls to 1-2-2 on the road, with three of the next four and four of the next six games all coming on away ice.
Tough loss for the Pens, who have a busy November and have to get to figuring things out now that they have a full lineup. Never good to get blown out by a rival, but in the big scheme of things the Penguins need to get back on track at home against Buffalo on Tuesday.