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Pens/Caps Recap: Sliding Penguins drop fourth straight game, Caps win 6-3

The Pens find themselves in a familiar position — coming up just short when a tight game ends.

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

In typical Penguins and Capitals form, it didn’t take long for fireworks to go off. Pittsburgh opened the scoring just 45 seconds into Saturday’s matinee game after an Alex Ovechkin turnover ended up on the stick of Evgeni Malkin, who made a play from behind the net for Jake Guentzel. Guentzel couldn’t finish but Bryan Rust could.

Just 16 seconds later, Washington would answer. Brian Dumoulin seemed to get crossed up playing a puck and ended up gifting it to Marcus Johansson who cashed in to tie the score right back up.

The Caps would take the lead a few minutes later. Dmitry Orlov scored on the rush, beating Trsitan Jarry to the glove side after the netminder took an...inopportune angle.

Before the end of the first period, Jarry’s counter-part Ilya Samsonov would see him one bad goal and raise with two leaky ones. Another Washington poor puck management decision helped, with forward Anthony Mantha handling it going the wrong way and not using his outlets and eventually giving it up to Evan Rodrigues. Rodrigues took the puck hard to the net, Samsonov stopped it but left a rebound and Jeff Carter swooped in and flipped a backhander that Samsonov couldn’t seal up.

The Pens would re-take the lead with veteran Brian Boyle finding a lot of room upstairs on a generous stance from the Washington goalie not covering much of the top of the net. Boyle quickly lifted a shot up and in to send the game to a 3-2 Pens lead after one period.

The Caps tied the game early in the second, after the Pittsburgh PK got stretched too thin with penalty problems. The parade started with Kris Letang going for interference. The Pens’ PK actually dominated the next sequence but Carter got his stick up (in the offensive zone!) and granted Washington a short two-man advantage. That turned into a very lengthy two-man advantage when the Pens won the faceoff and Brian Dumoulin flipped the puck clear over the glass.

Play with that much fire, and getting burned is the result. With Carter in the box, Rodrigues took (and lost) a d-zone faceoff. Seconds later, the puck was in the net with the classic Ovechkin one-time goal from the left side of the ice, which served to tie the game at 3.

Washington really took over in the third period and cranked up the pressure, forcing the Penguins to hold on for dear life. Jarry bounced back from his shaky start for a bit, but was no match for a Tom Wilson shot on the rush, again to the glove side to give Washington a lead they wouldn’t surrender with 8:25 left in the game.

Pittsburgh made their comeback chances more difficult by getting caught with seven skaters on the ice, too two many for a minor penalty. That was killed off and the Pens earned a power play of their own when Jake Guentzel was high-sticked.

That last, best chance by Evgeni Malkin was a rocket to the top of the net, but it was just a hair too high, pinging off the cross-bar heavily.

From there, it was all over, with the Caps tacking on two empty net goals to run up the final score to 6-3 and pull two points closer to Pittsburgh in the standings.

Some thoughts

  • Who would have guessed during the game that the Boyle goal would be the final one Samsonov surrendered? He was not looking very good at all, but whatever happened in the locker-room during the Caps’ first intermission worked. Washington out-shot Pittsburgh 35-18 over the last two periods.
  • Similar to last week’s games against COL and NYR, just being tied after 20 or 40 minutes (the latter today) just didn’t quite feel just for how the game had gone . As usual, the Pens had no shortage of chances (38 scoring chances, 15 high danger) through two periods. And also as unfortunately typical for them, they lacked some finish and some luck, like Jake Guentzel hitting the post on the power play or a couple of Malkin’s six shot attempts not finding the target.
  • Sensing Samsonov was shaky early on, the Pens certainly weren’t passing up many shots. Their 72 shot attempts set a season-high. A negative though was that a high percentage of those attempts did not make it to target, with 20 blocked by the Caps or and 22 more mis-fired high/wide by the Pens.
  • On the flip side of the coin, the Caps got 45 shots on goal. Only 11 were blocked and only 10 missed the net. Much more effective and accurate shot attempts by Washington today, which added up to make a real difference on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
  • Perhaps related from the note above, perhaps an observation: Pittsburgh second or third line forwards with a blocked shots were limited to just Jason Zucker’s one block.
  • Jason Zucker made his return, which was largely unnoticeable (no shot attempts, but five hits), aside from a fight in the third period with Trevor van Riemsdyk, after the latter likely didn’t appreciate getting finished off with a check along the boards. If there’s anyone of the Pens right now who does not need to be fighting, it would be Zucker after all his ailments, but it looked like more of a hugfest anyways.
  • The Pens spent 6:00 on the power play in the game, and came away empty handed. The two posts from Guentzel and especially Malkin serving as cruel reminders of just how close it is between winnin’ and losin’. Between livin’ and dyin’! (/Al Pacino voice).
  • Some players look like they’re reaching points of failure. When Brian Dumoulin is getting beat off the wall to give Johan Larsson a mini-breakaway, that’s a big problem. Jarry stabilized but is among the NHL leaders in games and being asked a lot when the other team fires 45 shots at him. Chad Ruhwedel got caught not getting puck or taking the body on the game winning goal.

The Penguins get back at it tomorrow afternoon and will look to break their losing streak against Nashville.