No surprises for the Penguins lineup, going with the same groupings as opening night.
Almost time for hockey!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 13, 2023
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Some surprises for Washington - starting goalie Darcy Kuemper is unavailable due to the birth of a child, so Charlie Lindgren goes. In order to have the salary cap space to bring up a backup goalie, the Caps have to send a forward to the minors and shuffle the lineup a little.
Mostly quiet opening period as the teams feel one another out. The Caps activate their defense often through the middle of the ice with a new coach and unseen system, the Pens get a handle on that and adjust accordingly.
Rickard Rakell went to the penalty box for seemingly little more than TJ Oshie skating over him, but the Pens’ PK was clinical to give the dangerous Caps’ power play no chance to get set up in the zone.
Shots go 10-8 Pens through 20, but nothing on the scoreboard.
It’s early so it’s easy to say, but the Penguins played their best period of the year - by far - in the second. They came out strong and a shift by the third line set the tone to tilt the ice. As the lines cycled through, it was the big boys who hit the back of the net. Erik Karlsson made a subtle but great keep at the offensive blueline (with no less than Alex Ovechkin in his grill if the puck popped out). Karlsson moved it down to Rakell, who centered for Malkin and Geno made no mistakes ripping a quick shot to the back of the net for his first goal of the season, 4:07 into the period.
Another Karlsson pass caused Trevor van Riemsdyk to pull down Rakell and the Pens got their first power play of the night. It also resulted in their first power play goal. Sidney Crosby was in front of the net and his shot clicked off a Washington defender and fluttered into the net. 2-0 Pens.
POWER PLAY GOALS ARE OUR FAVORITE pic.twitter.com/kYPOzSQAfK— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 14, 2023
At this point, the Washington response came with a long sequence trapping the Pittsburgh fourth line in the zone for over two minutes of game action, but the Pens survived. Later, a Connor McMichael shot struck the post hard, but stayed out.
The Pens got another power play and made it count. Jake Guentzel tried to pass over to a wide open Crosby but it got blocked. A fortunate bounce put it on the stick of Malkin, so he used the same idea and fed the captain for a shot that gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.
It's our second game of the season and Sidney Crosby has already scored three goals. pic.twitter.com/65qMABnhN5— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 14, 2023
Ovechkin gets a breakaway but does a favor to Tristan Jarry with a soft five-hole attempt that’s easily stopped.
Caps get a power play late in the period, but true to developing trends, the Pens hold to the buzzer after Oshie misses wide and a diving Lars Eller prevents Ovechkin from the follow up.
Shots end up 13-7 Pens in the second, with three big goals. Lindgren made a few good saves too in order to keep this game somewhat within sight at 3-0.
Ovechkin erases the Washington power play by slashing the stick out of Noel Acciari’s hands.
The Caps get one more chance to get back in it with another power play, but can’t get much going.
Malkin helps salt the game away late with a home run pass that hits Reilly Smith perfectly entering the zone. Smith fired past Lindgren to make it 4-0 with 3:03 left to finish this game off.
But of course it’s never over when Tom Wilson can’t take the L and shows all the grace and class he is known for (which is to say as the common waste receptacle) and started punching Marcus Pettersson for no real discernible reason. But, sideshow aside, the Caps get shutout in a home-opener for the first of many, many losses to come for them this season based on this kind of showing.
- Star power was in full effect for the Pens tonight. For as uneven as Karlsson was on Tuesday, he showed why he is a maestro with the puck on his stick tonight. His poise and hesitation to hold the puck and open up passing lanes and ability to then hit said lanes is second-to-none from the blueline when he’s on his game. He was on it tonight from his skating to controlling play and making it look easy.
- For as much as “Crosby vs. Ovechkin” hogs the spotlight, Malkin is never that far behind. Like Karlsson, Malkin was also feeling it tonight with a four-point game and was the most dangerous player on the ice for the entire game.
- And then there was Crosby with two power play goals, one from in front, one from being totally unmarked at the right side.
- Which, has been repeated before, but almost every successful Penguin power play ends when Crosby and/or Malkin are either in the slot or right at the side of the goal. When those guys are stuck on the perimeter, it doesn’t work. When they get to the scoring areas, it doesn’t always end up right, but when a goal happens, that’s usually where it comes from.
- Sensing some momentum slipping away mid-way into the second period, a 4v4 situation popped up and the Pens went ultra-aggressive with a Crosby-Malkin-Karlsson-Kris Letang set. Good gracious that is fun.
- As the ESPN broadcast picked up on, it looked like Mike Sullivan was looking at his iPad a little more than usual in the first period to get a sense of what Washington was doing, with Mike Vellucci right at his side. There is no tape out on their new coach. The brain-trust must have found some way for the Pittsburgh forwards to instantly adapt and clamp down on the space the Caps’ defenders were gaining, it dried up quickly.
- The Caps started shuffling their lines by the middle of the second period, too. Interesting game-within-the-game stuff for the chess match behind the bench. After falling behind maybe they needed to shake things up, but that could be seen as blinking to reach for the blender so soon from a first time coach.
- Special teams in Pens/Caps games are always so crucial given the extreme star power and high skill on each team’s power play. Knowing alone that Pittsburgh scored on the first two PP’s they had, and Washington went 0/3 on the night would probably be the only stat one would need to know to accurately predict a winner.
- Really liking the speed elements that Jansen Harkins and Drew O’Connor are bringing to the table on the same line. Those guys open up a lot of space in the middle and can jump up on the forecheck to pressure the opposition in a hurry.
- Tristan Jarry was only asked to make 19 saves in what was a very controlled effort from in front. Jarry wasn’t called on much, but obviously had all the answers on this night.
- Malkin got his four points playing under 17 minutes. Crosby only worked 17:43 himself (and only 15 at ES). A comfortable win allowed the Pens to roll lines and not lean that heavily on the big boys, which is important since the Pens have a flight tonight and game tomorrow.
Speaking of, the Pens are right back at it tomorrow and see the Calgary Flames back in Pittsburgh for another one.