What do you do on the road, playing without your hottest player and dealing with a division leading team that’s only lost four times in regulation in the season? Better get a good effort.
The Penguins did that tonight, defeating the Washington Capitals 4-2 in a game they jumped out in front early and rode it home for the win.
Consider the coach among the impressed with the effort.
Coach Sullivan: "I thought we played hard. We were on pucks. We controlled territory... We handled their pressure pretty well tonight. We were quick to pucks in the offensive zone. For me, that's when our team is at our best - when we're playing an in-your-face style of play." pic.twitter.com/XeKVTSbiBI— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 11, 2021
The Pens played hard, and scored the all-important first goal. Pittsburgh is now 12-1-0 on the season when striking first. Danton Heinen achieved that late in the first period, poking home a nice centering pass from John Marino in front to put the Pens to a lead they would never relinquish.
Road warrior— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 11, 2021
Six of Danton Heinen’s eight goals this season have come on the road. pic.twitter.com/YJ17QYWnSI
Pittsburgh’s puck possession paid off in the second when Brock McGinn just threw a puck towards the net. Good things can happen when you do that, and it did when the puck bounced off a Capital and past goalie Ilya Samsonov to make it a 2-0 game.
Perfect timing from Brock McGinn pic.twitter.com/goBf0iHnMv— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 11, 2021
Just three minutes later the Pens put a stamp on the game taking advantage of an errant Tom Wilson zone exit (lol) that went the other way. Wilson tried to negate Sidney Crosby, and needless to say, advantage Crosby when the captain made a slick backhand pass to find Kasperi Kapanen on the left wing. Kapanen made no mistakes blowing his shot by Samsonov to extend Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-0.
Two days ago:— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 11, 2021
Media: "How would you rate your game?"
Kapanen: "Terrible, thanks."
The Capitals started to make things interesting when Alex Ovechkin pulled a puck off the wall and to the middle for Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov made a great move to his backhand to ruin Tristan Jarry’s shutout bid to give the crowd some hope to pull the game back to a 3-1 score.
Washington would pull their goalie for a 6v5 situation, and draw even closer with another goal with 3:46 remaining. This time they won an offensive zone draw, Lars Eller found a soft spot in the zone and quickly snapped a puck in to get the game to a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead.
Washington’s empty net magic would end there, though. 53 seconds later Crosby set up Jeff Carter for a tap in open net goal to bring the score to a 4-2 finish.
Jarry ➡️ Crosby ➡️ Carter ➡️ pic.twitter.com/G6XTohttQC— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 11, 2021
And that would be that, the Pens took an under-manned group on the road to close out a five game road trip and did it in style, taking the play to the top team in the division and earning a solid victory.
- Pittsburgh extended their franchise record to now 12 games and counting without giving up a goal on the PK by killing off two Washington power plays. The Pens were masterful as usual at keeping the puck movement to the perimeter and limiting good opportunities for the Caps.
- Tristan Jarry stopped 29 of 31 shots and looked very in control of this game. It took two tremendous efforts to get by him and he stood strong to stop several more good efforts. Jarry is really in a groove and playing tremendous hockey right now.
- Without the injured Guentzel, the Pens’ top line still was the most dangerous trio on the ice. Evan Rodrigues is playing the best hockey of his career with six shots on goal tonight, and hit a post on a clean breakaway in the first period. Enough good things really can’t be said about No. 9’s level of play.
- Kapanen had not scored in eight games but was totally dynamic and played with a ton of confidence and swagger in his first game on the top line. He definitely rose to the occasion and looked like a totally different player tonight than the past few weeks. For as absent and inconsistent as he has been, he raised his game to a high level in this one. The telling thing will be, can he keep it going and do it again tomorrow?
- The Pens keep using Rodrigues to take faceoffs on the right side the ice, the strong side for the right handed player. He lost all four draws he took tonight, which raises the question — why isn’t Sidney Crosby taking all the faceoffs when he’s on the ice?
- Pittsburgh shortened the bench big time with both Drew O’Connor and Dominik Simon playing less than six minutes total. Both did well when on the ice too having 70%+ Corsi controls and O’Connor getting a couple of good looks at the net. We’ll see if this burns the Pens tomorrow by riding their top-nine forwards too much tonight for this game, but they did have most the week off and Mike Sullivan pretty much treated tonight against a strong Caps team almost as if it were a playoff game.
- With eight goals now in 26 games, Danton Heinen is on a 25-goal pace over a full season. This is quite an unexpected but welcome bit of production. Heinen isn’t really that overwhelming of a player, but he’s got pretty good hockey IQ to be in the right place at the right time and have the ability to finish his chances. It seems weird to say this a few months ago, but where would the Pens be without Danton Heinen right now? Worse off is the answer.
Great win for the Pens to end their road trip with a signature win in Washington. They won, and they won pretty convincingly in a good team’s barn. Tough to ask for a lot more than that. Quick turnaround to get home and play Anaheim tomorrow night.