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Pens/Caps Recap: Rust’s late goal earns Pittsburgh a point, but they fall in shootout

The Penguins find a way to hang in there against the Caps, but eventually lose 3-2 in a shootout

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images


The visiting Penguins stick with the same lineup as last game, now with the benefit of an actual backup goaltender!

The hosting Capitals welcome T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom back into their lineup from absences in the prior game.

First period

Pittsburgh tempts fate early with P.O. Joseph putting Washington on the power play. The Pens purposely shaded towards Alex Ovechkin in an effort to take him away. But Ryan Poehling had to take one stride into help protect the net and and momentary lapse allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to feed Ovechkin to do what he does; score power play goals from the left circle. 1-0 Caps at the six minute mark of the game.

The Pens come to life a bit more after this and draw their first power play when Garnet Hathaway boards Jake Guentzel. Washington actually gets more shots (three) than the Pens do (zero) during the Pittsburgh 5v4, so, yeah, probably the less said the better on this part.

Late in the period, Teddy Blueger takes the rare penalty for a faceoff violation by playing the puck with his hands to give the Caps a second power play, but this time operation “cover Ovechkin” pays off and the Pens get out of the first only down 1-0.

Shots in the first are 22-8 in favor of the Capitals, mostly because of an effective power play against a non-effective one. 5v5 shots are a lot closer and 10-8 WSH.

Second period

Despite being badly out-shot early on, wouldn’t you know it the Pens are only one shot away from tying it, and early on in the period they do just that. It’s the suddenly red-hot Danton Heinen scoring his second goal in as many games. Drew O’Connor takes a long-range shot that through the traffic seems to handcuff Darcy Kuemper a bit. It results in a loose puck behind Kuemper that Heinen finds and taps in. 1-1 game.

DeSmith stays sharp when tested on a 2-on-1 rush and nice shot from Nic Aube-Kubel. A bit later, DeSmith robs Aube-Kubel again from a deflection in front.

Neither team scores or gets penalized the rest of the way. Strong period for Pittsburgh, who out-shoot the Caps 18-12 in the second and are able to melt the road game down to the final 20 minutes.

Third period

Washington gets back in front on an innocent enough looking play that sneaks in on DeSmith. Backstrom leaves the puck for Marcus Johansson who has plenty of room on the left side. Brock McGinn leans his stick out to attempt to disrupt the shot, but may have had the opposite effect to help it ramp off him and where DeSmith couldn’t track it. It goes to the top corner of the net.

Washington keeps building on their momentum, a late cross-check by Anthony Mantha leads to a retaliation by his fellow Qubecois Kris Letang and they get tangled up and each take double minor penalties for all the rough stuff.

The Pens keep hanging around, and they tie the game. Bryan Rust doesn’t have much of an angle but snaps a quick, hard shot upstairs that eludes Kuemper’s glove. 2-2 game with 7:08 remaining.

Both teams at this point look pretty content to nurse the game to OT. Action slowed notably in the third, with shots only checking in at 9-7 in favor of Pittsburgh, but overall at 41-34 for the Caps.


For another game, Carter takes the OT draw, won it and then scooted off to the bench.

Evgeni Malkin trips Oshie to give a penalty, Malkin didn’t like call which was after Oshie played the puck, but the refs give it to him. Washington uses their timeout to draw up a play for the 4v3.

After an early Ovechkin shot that’s answered by DeSmith, the Pens hold on. The team goes 4v4 all the rest of the way and a last second chance by Brian Dumoulin of all people doesn’t go in.


Oshie is the first shooter, he comes in slow but can’t out-wait DeSmith on a backhand shot.

Ricky Raks takes the ice, he slowly skates in, gets Kuemper flat on the ice and lifts the puck over him. Pens up 1-0 in the SO.

Kuznetsov stickhandles in super slowly, finds his move on the quick shot. 1-1 in the SO.

The Pens’ captain is up, he tries a quick snap shot but it’s stopped.

Backstrom takes his turn, he also dekes to the forehand and scores. 2-1 Caps.

In do or die mode, the Pens turn to Malkin. His shot glances off of Kuemper and goes wide. Pens lose.

Some thoughts

  • The bane of the recap’s existence, the Dumoulin-Ruhwedel PK pair has been replaced! Dumoulin was working with Jeff Petry tonight and Ruhwedel was out with Marcus Pettersson killing penalties. Gotta take the small steps of improvement wherever they occur, you guys.
  • Before the game, Lars Eller called it the Caps’ “most important game of the year”. With their points% dipping under ninth place Buffalo coming into the game, it should have been no surprise Washington started things out with more desperation and energy. This was a game they couldn’t afford to lose.
  • It was nice to see Ovechkin go out of his way in pre-game warmups to stop and give a little hug and apparent nice word to Kris Letang. Several of the long-time Pens took the opportunity to welcome back Nicklas Backstrom during breaks in play. The two teams certainly have no love lost during the games, but I guess this is growing up? Nice to see some respect shown.
  • The fourth line keeps going, and it’s been a pretty simple formula. Drew O’Connor is starting the plays, usually by getting pucks to the net. If they aren’t going in, Heinen is around the net to finish it. Nothing fancy, but that’s been the common theme for that line lately. In some ground-breaking analysis, I suggest they should try to keep doing that.
  • DeSmith is a goalie that can be very easy to criticize and more difficult to praise given his style of play, stature, ability, you name it — but even a staunch critic has to tip the cap to him tonight. The Pens were not very engaged early, but the goalie kept him in. That’s all you can ask for, and DeSmith did even more than that stopping 43/45 and allowing his team to be in the game long enough for the offense to break through and tie it in the third period. Following up on one of his worst games of the year on Tuesday, DeSmith was much, much better tonight. There’s something to be said for that.
  • Wasn’t much of a game for special teams with only three total power play chances in regulation, and that for the better for Pittsburgh given how their power play and penalty kill both looked poor. Credit to the PK for the game saving hold in OT on a tricky 4v3 situation that stretched them thin.
  • The penalty on Malkin was iffy, though. Oshie had played the puck in, there wasn’t a turnover as a result, a scoring chance wasn’t gained or denied. Not sure about that one, but at least it didn’t cause the game to end directly.
  • Five of the last six games have gone to OT for the Pens (3-0-3 overall and 2-0-3 in the extra time games). Very tight margins between winning and losing, but it’s very important to pick up points in this heavy stretch of games. If you’re going to lose, don’t do it in regulation and things will be ok. Pittsburgh has been living by that mantra lately.
  • It was only the second Pittsburgh shootout of the season, they’re now 1-1.

One more for the Pens before a long break, and they get to go home and play San Jose.