The Penguins were treated with good news even before the game began when the lineup came out and both Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel were in the lineup to maintain the defensive consistency the team has enjoyed since mid-November.
The first period was marked with action and two penalties a piece by Daniel Sprong and Jake Guentzel to give some action. First, though, Washington had to weather a goalie injury. Vitek Vanecek started but would only play the first 6:43 of the game. Vanecek was involved with a collision with Kasperi Kapanen, the latter tripped by a Capital while driving to the net.
With Sprong’s first trip to the penalty box yielding the game’s first goal...But not by the Penguins. Kris Letang made a brutally bad pass that was picked off by Nic Dowd. In alone on the breakaway, Dowd deked to his forehand and tucked the puck through Tristan Jarry to give the visiting Capitals a 1-0 lead.
Dowder with some speeeeed on the breakaway pic.twitter.com/lMGxw2x5bA— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 2, 2022
The Pens’ power play would redeem themselves, with Evgeni Malkin extending his point-streak to nine games by snapping a puck by Vanecek just 36 seconds after the Washington short-handed goal. Soon after, Vanecek would leave the game.
With this power-play goal, Evgeni Malkin extends his season-long point streak to nine games (3G-7A), which is the second-longest active point streak in the NHL behind Kevin Fiala (11 games). pic.twitter.com/D9CWhKEivG— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 2, 2022
Pittsburgh would stake a short-lived claim to the lead, again courtesy of a Sprong penalty. Great sequence by the top power play, Malkin is not rewarded with a point here but his play to keep the puck in the zone was critical to the sequence that ended with Bryan Rust dekeing to his backhand and scoring on the new goalie, Ilya Samsonov. 2-1 Pens.
30 seconds of beautiful puck movement on the Penguins' power-play.— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) February 2, 2022
Malkin takes a hit at the blue line to keep the puck in and some sweet passing leads to another Bryan Rust goal. pic.twitter.com/Ueb4nAz05t
Then it was Guentzel’s turn for the penalty parade, and while the Pens’ PK did well to keep Washington’s top group out to the perimeter, they scored late in the power play with their second unit with Dmitry Orlov collecting Conor Sheary’s rebound to reset the game back even at 2-2.
The Pens’ power play struck again for a third time with Rust again, this time from the doorstep. 3-2 Pens.
After the Pens recorded the first 14 shots of the period, the Caps appear to score on their first shot of the second period. Pittsburgh challenges though for goalie interference, and Andy Saucier don’t miss, y’all. Dowd was set up a little in the blue paint, and that’s good enough for the refs to reverse the goal call.
The Caps would get that equalizer before the end of the second, with Sprong getting some redemption on a nice play driving around Chad Ruhwedel and scoring on the rush.
Lunch courtesy of Daniel Sprong tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/fVBNvoctYx— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 2, 2022
A third period finally saw the game settle in, with no goals, so the rivals would go to the 3-on-3 overtime. Washington made it count, controlling the puck and Dmitry Orlov cut to the middle and fired a shot past Jarry to end the game.
- Always fun to watch the Mike Sullivan/Peter Laviolette cat-and-mouse matchup game. Washington started all three periods with their defensive Hagelin-Dowd-Hathway fourth line. Sullivan, at home with last change, didn’t start the Crosby line like he usually does a scientific 97% of the time, instead electing to begin with the Malkin line each time.
- The Caps were able to get that defensive line out in the pace of play, but given the Pens’ territorial and shot advantage, I doubt Sullivan minded.
- Even in OT, Dowd was the choice to take the draw, so very rarely it wasn’t Crosby out there but Carter. Carter won the draw clean, headed straight to the bench for Rust.
- One last matchup note, seemed like Jeff Carter saw a lot of the Alex Ovechkin line, and played more ES time than Evgeni Malkin. That could be an interesting second half development to see how the Pens play with Teddy Blueger on the shelf.
- Pittsburgh benefited from a sloppy Caps performance. Puck over glass. High-stick in the o-zone. Daniel Sprong being Daniel Sprong and reaching out. Lots of situations where the refs have no choice but to call it. And the Pens took advantage by scoring three PPG.
- Pittsburgh limited Washington to just two 5v5 shots in the first period. Shots in the second started 14-0 Pens overall. And then the Caps...scored on Dowd’s deflection on their first shot until it was wiped out.
- That’s a close challenge, and risky since it would have given the Caps a power play if it failed. And, though Dowd might have been a hair in Jarry’s zone, he didn’t really prevent the goalie from playing the position. Barring clear interference, that never seems right to take away a goal like that, just like it doesn’t feel right when a player’s skate is an inch off-side 15 seconds before a goal is scored but, rules are rules. And hey, anything that breaks against the Caps is inherently a good thing.
- Samsonov was the story of the game, coming in unexpectedly in relief and settling in really well during the Pens’ onslaught in that first 30-35 minutes he was in the net. By the end of the second period Samsonov had played about 33 minutes. He saw 33 shots, stopping 31 of them. A few more in and this game might have been blown wide open.
- Brock McGinn might have a long off week thinking about this glorious chance that he just couldn’t get enough mustard on. Tip of the cap for Samsonov, but between Kapanen and McGinn, that’s got to be a goal. Kinda the story of the supporting players right now, just not getting the puck in the net.
- The last time the Pens touched the puck in OT, it was Kapanen inexplicably losing control, which he seems to do very often for a skilled player. Crosby failed to mark Orlov cutting to the middle after failing on an OT breakaway in another “what could have been” moment.
- For a team that looked gassed in the last three or four games, great effort by the Pens against their rivals. The forecheck was absolutely smothering in hounding pucks, changing possession, pinning the Caps in deep for several long stretches. Whole sections of the game were played about in the Washington half of the ice. It was impressive to see the system working and the players executing to a tee (minus the whole not scoring goals thing).
We arrive to the All-Star break, and after this one, everyone needs a breather. But in the unofficial second half of the season will have a lot to think on and discuss and we’ll have it for you all!