The Penguins get a rare treat: the same lineup from last game is back again for this one.
Ready for hockey.#LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/SgaRPYbaJ8— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 23, 2021
Early on, 1:17 in, Dmitry Orlov for the Capitals shoves Mike Matheson into goalie Vitek Vanecek and the refs decide to...penalize Matheson for goalie interference. Sure, cool. Luckily the Penguin PK doesn’t let the Caps power play even get started.
The refs make up that first bad call by giving Alex Ovechkin an weak goalie interference call of his own. The Penguins make Washington pay, Kris Letang shoots from the point for the stick of Evgeni Malkin, who deflects the puck from in front and into the net. 1-0 Pens as we get 6:41 into the game.
Letang with some patience and pinpoint accuracy.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 24, 2021
Malkin with a deft deflection.
Pittsburgh with the power-play goal against Washington. pic.twitter.com/Mz1eJR647f
After a whistle the refs get Jake Guentzel for a retaliation slash, another weak call as the stripes continue to unfortunately put their stamp on the game. Yet again the Pens do a great job on the PK to keep the Caps’ league best power play at bay.
Really good first period for the Pens, besides the multiple trips to the penalty box. 5v5 Corsi For% is 57.1% for Pittsburgh, who carried a 5v5 expected goals for% of 65.5. But the game’s only goal in the first was on the power play, via Evgeni Malkin. Shots overall are 12-6 PIT, by virtue of carrying the play for pretty much the whole first 20 minutes, no matter the circumstance.
Everything looks well until the Caps catch the Pens out in a prolonged shift. Zdeno Chara makes a deep pass in for Richard Panik, who puts Mike Matheson on his hip and barrels in towards the net with a quick move. Panik’s shot to the far-side out-angles Tristan Jarry to that post and it’s a 1-1 game.
Slovak to Slovak pic.twitter.com/m7k3OIhdU0— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 24, 2021
The game opens up a bit with the teams exchanging end-to-end rushes and chances and then the Caps take their first lead. P.O Joseph has a chance to clear the zone but can’t, and next thing you know Evgeny Kuznetsov lays a nice pass over for Conor Sheary who is wide open and fires it in. 2-1 Washington.
Right on the money pic.twitter.com/uTVGarnlws— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 24, 2021
Just 26 seconds, the Pens fire back. The top line has been dangerous all night and they finally strike, John Marino shoots from the point that Jake Guentzel deflects into the far corner of the net in a thing of beauty. Back to tied at 2-2.
That redirect though pic.twitter.com/pt6yj7xBTa— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 24, 2021
Justin Schultz sends the Pens to the power play (still sounds weird to say) when he gets beat by Crosby and keeps his knee out a bit and trips the captain. but the Pens don’t strike this time.
Shots in the second are 18-9 Pens with Pittsburgh dominating all the possession and scoring chances in the period as well. But, Washington clawed back into the game and it’s tied going into the third.
Mid-way through the third, Jason Zucker appears to suffer a bad injury, he goes skating out to the point and as he twists and turn his skate picks into the skate of a Capital and Zucker goes down in a heap. He stays down in pain and is helped off the ice in significant pain and without putting much weight on his leg.
Unfortunate skate collision for Zucker. He’s helped down the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/cvn9X5C3ZO— ToughCallPodcast (@ToughCallBlog) February 24, 2021
The game tightens up a lot in the third so we don’t get a result.
The Pens pretty much own the puck for the majority of OT, which is always a crucial point for the 3v3. The Caps get it quickly and throw the puck on net but Jarry stops the puck and smacks it out of danger. Teddy Blueger quickly collects it on the fly and Pittsburgh is off on a 2-on-1. Kasperi Kapanen does really well to open up in a shooting position almost as soon as he gets inside the blueline, just inviting the pass from Blueger. Ted dishes it for him and the quick one-t from the right shot from the left wing blasts it by Vanecek. Pens win.
Blueger with the set up so Kapanen could bury the OT winner one game after being benched. Big time response. But hooo boy the play Marino and Jarry had to spring them. Heady play from Marino to block off Vrana so that Jarry could hit Blueger with the de facto outlet pass. pic.twitter.com/LSxICHFWPW— geoff (@geoffwithano) February 24, 2021
- The first period was arguably one of the best for Malkin. 2 SOG, one more attempt. A takeaway as a result on the backcheck. The goal from in front. It looked like the good old Geno, in the good way.
- Of all the many, many Pens/Caps games so far this season, this one seemed to be played at the fastest pace with wide open play, skating from end-to-end, only one penalty after the first 10 minutes was over. These teams are definitely getting used to playing one another and rolling with the punches that the other can throw.
- Kris Letang got his first two goals last game and was definitely in the shooting mindset tonight. One can see his confidence growing. Mid-way through the 3rd Letang led all individuals on both teams with 5 SOG and 9 total shot attempts. Great to see him getting to throwing anything and everything on net, which helped generate the first Pens’ goal of the night.
- The second Pens goal started with a point shot too. Add in what Matheson and Letang has done the past few games, and a lot of offense is starting from going high-to-low or low-to-high these days for Pittsburgh.
- When Zucker went down, Zach Aston-Reese as a LW jumped up to replace him with Malkin-Rust and Sam Lafferty moved up a line to join Blueger-Tanev and the Pens basically went to three forward lines for most of the rest of the game.
- While the Pens had an injury issue up front, they also voluntarily chose to go down to 5 defensemen. P.O Joseph again got the bench treatment as he only played 3:27 in the third period, including none of the last 9:01 of the game.
- Kapanen ended up benched last game, but responded well. The Pens’ top line was awesome all night and generated many a scoring chance. Kapanen got on the ice (perhaps in part due to Zucker being unavailable) and made the most of his chance to end the game.
- The Pens move to 4-1-0 vs the Caps this season; huge, huge stuff for Pittsburgh in their chase to get 63ish points or more to likely punch a ticket to the playoffs. The Caps are 1-1-3 themselves against Pittsburgh so far, so they can take solace in that, but for the Pens, taking 8 out of a possible 10 points against a solid regular season team like the Caps is a great start for the Pens.
And they’ll get one more chance to beat up on the Capitals yet and try to win 5/6 from Washington this season again on Thursday night.