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Pens/Caps Recap: Pittsburgh gets outplayed and falls 5-2 in Washington

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Not a good night for the Penguins, who are a step slow and behind the Capitals seemingly all night, and lose 5-2 after a few empty net goals

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins give Tristan Jarry his sixth straight start, Zach Aston-Reese bumps up a line to replace the injured Jason Zucker and Drew O’Connor slots back into the line.

First period

The Capitals get on the board first with some Nick to Nick action. Nice seam pass from Nick Jensen to hit Nicklas Backstrom in front of the net who sweeps it in. 1-0 Washington.

Noted trash eater Tom Wilson eats the trash with a totally needless and exceptionally late hit on Mark Jankowski.

And that’s about it. The Pens get two power plays, including a weak minor on the Wilson hit but do nothing with it.

Shots in the first are 12-11 Caps, 11-9 Washington at 5v5, where the Caps enjoyed a 58% Corsi For%.

Second period

Not much going on here, the teams alternate a few power play chances and the Pens’ group is regressing hard. They’re barely getting into the zone, and when they do just making harmless passes around the perimeter until it gets broken up.

Washington is playing the better of the two teams, shots in the period are 14-11 WSH, but also 13-7 at 5v5. Make it a 66.6% Corsi% for the Caps in this period, as they spend the majority of the time in the Pens’ zone. Jarry is doing well to keep it a 1-0 game and give the Pens a chance with 20 minutes left.

Third period

But in the first 3:30 of the period, it looks like Pittsburgh is going to flush being in the game. First, T.J. Oshie beats Mike Matheson on the rush and makes a falling poke at the puck for a highlight reel goal to make it 2-0 just 3:18 into the period.

The next shift, Kris Letang takes a penalty and it looks like the Pens could be on the ropes and about to be given a knockout shot. Yet it is Pittsburgh who strikes. Brandon Tanev with speed enters the zone and crosses on John Carlson. Tanev fires five-hole on Vitek Vanecek to get a goal and make it 2-1.

Three minutes later, Pittsburgh ties the game. Jake Guentzel steps out of the corner after shrugging off the check of Brendon Dillon and goes to the net and scores to make it 2-2.

The Pens luck runs out when O’Connor goes to the box and then on the PK Kris Letang breaks his stick and is about helpless without it. The Caps finally isolated and take advantage with a tip in goal from in front.

Kris Letang’s stick breaks again (!) and Carl Hagelin has an easy empty netter to make it 4-2 with 1:22 left to seal the deal. Lars Eller tacks on another EN to leave no doubt and set the final at 5-2.

Some thoughts

  • It’s been a “one up, one down” type of year for a while now. The Pens dominated possession, shots and chances on Tuesday. Tonight, just not as much juice as the Caps bounced back to return the favor on them. Sometimes it bes like that.
  • Some big time duality of Mike Matheson on display in this game with great puck movement, offensive instincts and chance generation. And then Oshie also puts him on a poster.
  • The Tanev goal luckily seemed to wake the team up a little and start to make a bit of a push. In the end, the played with fire too many times with the Caps’ power play.
  • Unreal bad luck for Letang with those sticks late in the game. Don’t understand why a forward didn’t offer up a stick to Letang in that situation, even with handedness. When the Caps scored, they had two players in the crease. The Pens only had Letang, without a stick, left to somehow function. Obviously that’s not going to work out.
  • Liked the game by Jarry to almost singlehandedly hold the Pens in that game and give them a chance to get a result in the 3rd period. It almost worked too. Goaltending was such a weakness for the first 3-4 weeks of the season, but the last 2ish weeks it’s suddenly, and magically, become a strength. Those guys with the pads are tough to figure out.
  • Until he scored, it might have been Guentzel’s worst game of the season. One on of the Pens’ few odd man rushes, Guentzel had the puck on the left side, held it way too long, and had no play besides firing a puck into a sliding defender, getting nothing out of the chance and not even having the thought to shoot enter his mind. Great job by Guentzel though, to fight through the bigger, stronger defender, slip to the net and finish.
  • Was this a game where not having two top-nine forwards and a top defenseman out adds up against a good team? Kinda seemed that way. The Pens were just a step slow and a step behind for most of the night. Looking at the teams on paper, it’s not tough to see why with a grinder like ZAR in the top six, Sam Lafferty on the third line, a fully replacement level (to put it kindly) 4th line.

But, on we go. Heading into the season taking a 4-2 record in the first six games against the Caps would be a promising proposition, and that’s where the Pens are at. They’ll move onto Long Island for the weekend, maybe and hopefully get McCann back and look to get back to winning against another tough rival over the weekend.