Sam Lafferty jumps in for Drew O’Connor on the fourth line, and Casey DeSmith (winner last game) doesn’t even dress with Maxime Lagace recalled from the practice squad and serving as the backup for reasons yet unknown.
Say hello to today's lineup.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 14, 2021
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The Penguins get off to a poor start, playing with fire in the form of Washington’s NHL #1 power play with Pittsburgh taking two slashing calls in the first 3:38 of the game. Kris Letang goes to the box and the Pens kill it off. Then Jason Zucker goes and the Pens almost get out of the woods again, but then get some bad luck that leads to the Caps’ first goal. Evgeny Kuznetsov gets the puck on net with some traffic in front, and one part of that traffic in the form of John Marino attempts to block the puck. Instead he merely re-angles it to the back of his own net, with Tristan Jarry squared up to the initial shot. 1-0 Washington just 5:18 in.
Kuzy making our hearts flutter pic.twitter.com/cfwDG1mtf9— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 14, 2021
In the familiar position of being behind in the first period, the Pens are at least unfazed by such a turn of events. They get to work and tie it up. Sidney Crosby makes a great pass to Mike Matheson, who himself steps up in the offensive zone and makes a really nice pass through Jake Guentzel’s legs for Bryan Rust to tap in an open net. 1-1 game.
Pittsburgh then gets a lead when Teddy Blueger wins an o-zone faceoff and Cody Ceci shoots from the point. Vitek Vanecek leaves a really poor rebound and Brandon Tanev outfoxes Justin Schultz in front of the net, because it’s Justin Schultz in front of the net and we’ve got a 2-1 game.
Go to the net and good things will happen.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 14, 2021
Here's a look at some good things ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Cjg9z0Rtok
Shots in the period are 10-9 Pens, Corsi% at 5v5 is 63.4% in favor of the Capitals, however. 5v5 scoring chances are 7-6 Washington.
The Caps come back and tie the game. Jarry does well to stop a T.J. Oshie shot from in close but Jarry pokes the puck right to Jakub Vrana who immediately returns it with a backhand past Jarry in a hurry. 2-2.
P.O Joseph gets high-sticked so the Pens get a power play and they......score a goal? That’s a thing you can do? Crosby wins the draw and bumps it to Guentzel who plays it back to Letang. Letang makes a nice pass down to Rust who kinda snuck to towards the backdoor and Rust slings a quick shot before Vanecek looks totally ready for it. 3-2.
A cut above the Rust.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 14, 2021
Rust has points in a team-best ten of 13 games this season (5G-7A). pic.twitter.com/1aVURYyfWo
Then....a first for the Penguins this season: they have a lead and they....score again? What is with these guys this period? Breaking all sorts of norms right now. Nice work again by the first line, Rust finds Guentzel with a pass and Jake shoots. Vanecek has just zero rebound control and Zdeno Chara is more interested in Crosby than the puck so it’s easy for Guentzel to follow his shot and get a second crack at it. 4-2.
WE HAVE A TWO-GOAL LEAD! pic.twitter.com/4QbucQ2Sj5— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 14, 2021
Letang goes back to the box for the second time of the game on a delay of game penalty, but the Pens kill it off.
The Caps do cut the lead a bit later, Alex Ovechkin centers the puck, and Malkin does well to get back on defense and look like he’s in position to neutralize it. But a smart play by Nicklas Backstrom to quickly lift his stick and backhand a weak shot catches Jarry by surprise, and it’s 4-3.
Shots overall are 14-11 Washington in the second period as each team recorded two goals in a wild middle frame. The Pens held a 51.6-48.4% edge in second period Corsi For%.
The teams go back and forth, but the Pens are the stronger of the two in the first half of the period jumping up to a 12-6 shot advantage and controlling 62.5% of Corsi events for the first 15 minutes of play.
The hard work pays off when Zach Aston-Reese scores an empty net goal from long range. Then Crosby puts the cherry on top to make it a 6-3 final with another empty net.
Why have one empty netter when you can have two? pic.twitter.com/Lqbwn9eeex— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 14, 2021
Tom Wilson trying in vain to hook Crosby is enough to warm anyone’s heart on this, the day of love.
- It’s weird to see Chara looks so old and slow and bad. He was on the ice for 2/3 of the Pens non-empty net ES goals and overall just looks like he’s about to turn 44 years old next month. Which, I guess he is.
- Great work by the BUZZSAW, which often frittered away the Caps’ top line in their own end. The Pens group didn’t get the puck to the middle or get any chances, but Backstrom and Ovechkin can’t hurt you when they’re pinned around chasing players in their defensive zone.
- What’s this, like 4 straight with a delay of game, puck over glass penalty? Puck. And though Washington didn’t score on that power play, they did score on A power play, which makes for seven straight games the Pens have conceded a goal while short handed.
- Rust really had his shootin’ boots (gloves?) on with 6 SOG and 8 total attempts and of course the two goals, plus an assist. He’s been the most consistent Penguin in terms of most games with a point recorded this season, and in this game he was the most visible and important Penguin player.
- Guentzel (4 SOG, 1 goal) and Crosby (4 SOG, 1 goal) weren’t far behind, though. That top line is rockin’ and rollin’ right now, no one really has many answers or is able to slow them down all that much.
- If Backstrom doesn’t have a mid-day meal this week, it’s probably because Crosby and Blueger took his lunch money in the faceoff circle. Backstrom only won 2 of 16 draws (for a measly 13%) on the game. Sid was 63% on the game, Blueger 67%.
- Great job by the Pens to actually play with a lead for most of the game, and play with a 2-goal lead for a bit too. That was always a blemish on their record this season to not be able to do that, but now they have.
- It was a two assist game for Cody Ceci who again looks as a most welcome surprise as a perfectly great bottom pair defender.
- Pittsburgh now 3-0-0 against Washington this season...So why can’t they do this against everyone? Sure would be nice, huh?
- Tristan Jarry, well the less said the better. He won! And he had a couple of good moments, but just can’t seem to keep the puck in front of him a lot of the times. It’s one thing to give up a deflection off your defender goal like the first, tough times there. But then two more somewhat “changeups” also got by him. Seems like this year Jarry gives up goals on just weird plays and tough breaks. The silver lining in the clouds is Jarry was still the best goalie on the ice because Vanecek was not very good in this game either.
Unlocking the 3 keys to the game (from the preview)
#1: Offense come to life.. As usual, the Pens scored in bunches against Washington with what ended up as a 6 goal performance. A bit of a skewed final, of course with the 2 empty netters, but gotta take them how they come, and Pittsburgh sure had no issues getting to 4 goals in 40 minutes and rolling towards another W. The Pens’ top line of Guentzel-Crosby-Rust combined for 4 goals and 3 assists. Frequent top-line running mate Kris Letang tacked on 2 more assists. The Pittsburgh offense rarely looks better than when they play the Capitals, and that was on display all game long with 2 goals in each and every period for the Pens.
#2: Jump on ‘em early. Well, this one didn’t work out. The Pens took 2 minor penalties in the first 3 minutes of the game, which never really let them get on track, especially when Washington cashed in on the second power play to go up 1-0 just a bit over 5 minutes in. The Caps might not have had an issue with the rust from being off for seven days, but they did have a big issue with Rust, as in #17 with a three point night.
Powerplay struggles..again. It wasn’t a struggle today! The Pens only got 2 PP opportunities, and didn’t score on the first one, but seemed to take some confidence as they had some zone time, showed some good puck movement and rotation. Then on their second chance, they cashed in for the first time in so many games. Nice job by them to finally get back on track.
Pens and Caps lock up again on Tuesday night, and Pittsburgh can’t really pick a better opponent right now, they’ve probably played their best hockey so far against Washington. And hopefully they’ll get to do that again in the next game to keep the train going.