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Penguins/Capitals Recap: Flat Pens fall 3-1 at home

The Penguins play a passive game and watch one slip away in a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images


Marcus Pettersson is back for the first time after missing nine games, taking Chad Ruhwedel’s spot in the lineup. Casey DeSmith is feeling well and able to serve as the backup, otherwise the Penguins are the same as last game’s win.

The Capitals are very similar from last game as well, although they’ve mixed up their top six a bit, including having Evgeny Kuznetsov move up to center Alex Ovechkin.

First period

The Pens get an early power play and then a two man advantage when Garnet Hathaway bowls over Tristan Jarry. Pittsburgh gets five shots on the power play and hits two post, basically everything but score a goal. Sidney Crosby had a great look at an open net but shanked the shot on one effort.

Shots overall are 15-13 Washington. 5v5 Corsi% is 50/50 but high danger chances are 7-0 Washington in the period because as this even strength heat chart from Natural Stat Trick shows, Pittsburgh was not able to get much at all going besides from the outside.

Second period

A poor start to the second for the Pens, Jake Guentzel takes a holding penalty just 13 seconds into give the Caps their first crack at the power play on the night. The Pens’ PK holds but Washington gets the game’s first goal 4:52 in when Nick Jensen works down low and no one really picks up Conor Sheary. The former Pen gets the puck and rifles a quick shot over Jarry’s glove to make it 1-0 Caps.

To make matters worse, Evgeni Malkin trips a Capital on the ensuing faceoff to send the Pens back to the PK. But again they do the job. P.O Joseph is the next to go to the box, and the Pens actually get the best scoring chance on a clean break by Brandon Tanev, but he bumbles the puck at the last moment.

The Caps still controlling the play, the Pens just barely hanging around and Washington pulls away. T.J. Oshie with a nice backhanded pass through traffic across the ice. Jakub Vrana releases it lightning quick and it again fires over the glove of Jarry. 2-0 Caps.

Shots in the second period are 18-5 Washington. The PP differential was 6:00-0:00 to make that a little worse, but the story was the same as the first: the Pens were sluggish and slow and generating very, very little.

Third period

The Caps keep on the chase and pounce just 1:09 into the third with Lars Eller getting a nice pass from Richard Panik and quickly slinging it in. 3-0 Washington.

The Pens get pinned in their own end and take a fifth straight penalty, but again the PK holds off the Caps.

Time wilts away and the Pens at least spoil the shutout effort by Vanecek. John Marino with a nice zone entry and drives to the net. Justin Schultz dumps Marino into his own goalie, which isn’t usually advisable. With the chaos in front, Mr. Rocket Richard Zach Aston-Reese scores his third goal in as many games to make it 3-1.

But that’s as close as the Pens get. They pull the goalie and even get a late power play but can’t score with a 6v4 situation as the final buzzer hits.

Some thoughts

  • Conor Sheary has five goals in seven games when playing against the Penguins. Maybe that’s why they keep acquiring him.
  • If the story of Mike Matheson’s career was one step forward with a good game last game, then tonight held true to form with a step back. Same could be said about Kris Letang’s season as well with the two Pens’ defenders seeing pucks go through them to unmarked players.
  • Just not a very good game for anyone in a bright yellow jersey. Having the early power plays seemed to breathe some life into the start for the Pens, but afterwards they never built on it and looked far too stagnant this game otherwise. Missing a couple of glorious chances to strike first might have tipped the balance of the game..
  • ..But it’s also disappointing that they didn’t deal with much adversity. This has been a team for all the poor or slow starts, they’ve usually found a way to make competitive games and mount some kind of comeback. There was no semblance of that in this one.
  • The Pens fourth line now is just turning into a liability. They’re offering almost literally nothing at even strength with all of them carrying close to a 0% expected goals for mark. This team badly needs some new life, energy and a better player or two on the fourth line right now to create a better group.
  • Just a blah game. The Pens got almost nothing from the “home plate” area in front of the net. It’s almost completely white here
  • So, at the end of the day, the Pens settle for going 3-1-0 at home against the Caps on the season series. Certainly a good turn of events there, but now they will need to go on the road (starting next week) and earn some results as well. It would be nice to win ‘em all, but in the grand NHL scheme of things this is the perfect example of a team falling back to the pack and why the standings always end up so close at the end of the season. The Caps had lost four games in a row coming into this game and were a more determined, focused group. The Pens had won five in a row at home, now they fall back. Nothing lasts forever and such are the ebbs and flows of a season.

Unlocking the 3 keys to the game (from the preview)

#1 Second line step-up.. Well, this didn’t happen. Again. Malkin took his first penalty of the season, which was a long streak there, but in a way you’d almost like to see him more engaged and more fighting for pucks, which may involve the odd trip to the box. Anyways, Malkin did very little otherwise, Jason Zucker was pretty quiet and Kasperi Kapanen didn’t offer a lot either. This group isn’t in a good place right now.

#2 PK will be tested. And tested it was, but the good news (maybe the only good news for the Pens tonight) was their penalty kill was good. A perfect 5/5, which broke a seven game streak of not giving up a goal while shorthanded. Good work, especially since Washington had the league’s best power play coming into the night.

Who will get any semblance of goaltending? After a very shoddy go on Sunday, both teams had much better goaltending tonight. Tough to pin a lot on Jarry, he got beaten to the glove high a couple times, but such is life in the NHL, especially when all three goals came off of passes that drastically changed the shooting area. And the Pens were giving up shots like crazy, it wasn’t their goaltending that let them down in this game.