After the first game in this two game set, in which the Caps mustered only 23 shots on goal in a 4-3 Gimmick loss, one might have expected that getting more shots to the Penguins’ net was an objective in the back half of this set. The Caps started well in that regard, putting 11 shots on goal against the Pens in the first 20 minutes. They would score on three of them to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Caps opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game on a play started by Richard Panik. Collecting a loose puck off a long rebound from a blocked shot, Panik turned from just inside the defensive blue line and fed T.J. Oshie breaking into the neutral zone. Oshie skated the puck down the left side and checked up when he gained the offensive zone. A passing lane opened up, and Oshie found Lars Eller at the top of the right wing circle. In one motion, Eller swept the puck past the left arm of goalie Casey DeSmith, and the Caps were up, 1-0, 4:55 into the period.
The Caps dominated the next 12 minutes in terms of possession, but the Penguins tied it at 16:52 when Colton Sceviour found a loose puck that goalie Vitek Vanecek could not find, and slid it under the sprawled goalie.
The tie lasted six seconds. The Penguins won the ensuing faceoff at center ice, but Alex Ovechkin jumped on the loose puck, skated it to the blue line, and fed Tom Wilson on the right side. Wilson snapped a shot off DeSmith’s left shoulder, the puck popping into the air and dropping behind DeSmith over the goal line to make it a 2-1 game.
Wilson struck again in the last minute of the frame. John Carlson took up the puck at the center red line and skated it down the left wing boards into the Pens’ zone. Looking for help behind the play, he found Wilson darting to the net. Carlson put a backhand pass right on Wilson’s stick blade, and it was only for Wilson to redirect the puck past DeSmith, and the Caps had a 3-1 lead at 19:43 of the period. That was how the teams went to the first intermission.
-- Washington out-shot Pittsburgh, 11-5, in the period and out-attempted them, 16-13.
-- Lars Eller won four of six faceoffs, while the rest of the team went 4-for-14.
-- Daniel Sprong was the other Capital to post two shots on goal in the period.
-- Brenden Dillon had one hit, one blocked shot, no shot attempts, but was a plus-2.
The Caps put themselves in a hole early in the period when Dmitry Orlov and Lars Eller went to the penalty box 39 seconds apart to give the home team a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:21. The Caps skated the two-man advantage off, but the Penguins cashed in on the 5-on-4, Jake Guentzel finishing off a fine passing play from the doorstep at 5:45 to make it 3-2, Caps.
The Caps restored the two-goal lead less than three minutes later. A Jakub Vrana shot from the left point was waved at on the way through by Daniel Sprong looking for a redirect, and it might have distracted DeSmith, who did not stop the puck cleanly. The puck dribbled out to his left, and Evgeny Kuznetsov pounced on it, snapping it into the back of the net before DeSmith could recover. The Caps were up, 4-2, at the 8:16 mark.
And then, things took a turn. The Caps got a 5-on-3 man advantage of their own when Jake Guentzel and Chad Ruhwedel were sent off 1:06 apart. You would think this would give the Caps a gift-wrapped chance to bury the Pens. Well, yeah, except DeSmith played a puck from his own crease out of the zone and onto the stick of Teddy Blueger, who broke cleanly behind the Caps’ defense. He converted the breakaway, and it was now a 4-3 game 15:07 into the period.
The Caps couldn’t stay out of the box themselves, T.J. Oshie going off for an interference penalty late in the frame. Evgeni Malkin made the Caps pay 36 seconds later, and the game was tied, 4-4. That would be how the teams went to the locker room when the period mercifully ended.
-- The Caps had a 3-on-none break in the fourth minute of the period and failed to convert. The Pens outscored the Caps, 3-1, over the next 14 minutes – two power play goals and a shorthanded goal.
-- The Pens out-shot the Caps, 10-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 19-15.
-- Despite only 7:54 in ice time through two periods, Daniel Sprong led the team with three shots on goal.
There would be no scoring in the period, ensuring that the Caps would earn a standings point for the fourth consecutive game.
Crosby… Sidney #@$% Crosby
-- Wilson had two goals on two shots in the first period. He did not have a single shot attempt in the first game of this two-game set.
-- Wilson’s night left him with his seventh multi-goal game of his career, tied for 41st on the Caps’ all-time list with Scott Stevens, Eric Fehr, Randy Burridge, and Ulf Dahlen.
-- The Caps were outscored, 4-1, over the last 37 minutes after they blew a 3-on-none break in the second period that would have given them a 4-1 lead.
-- The Caps could not take advantage of the fact that the Pens were down two defensemen (Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola) over much of the second half of the game.
-- John Carlson led the team in ice time with 22:10.
-- Pittsburgh scored two power play goals on three shots, the Caps had no power play goals in three shots. Add to that the Penguins scored on their only shorthanded shot, and they wer 3-for-4 shooting on special teams. Not good.
-- Alex Ovechkin… two shots on goal, one blocked shot, three hits, and an assist. A rather quiet night for the Captain.
-- At the other end, Evgeny Kuznetsov had six shots on goal, two attempts blocked, a goal, a blocked shot, and won six of ten draws. All in just 14:31 of ice time.
-- Kuznetsov and Lars Eller were the only Caps not credited with at least one hit. Tom Wilson led the team with ten.
-- The tens hits credited to Wilson marks the second time in his career he had ten or more hits in a game. He had 13 against the Penguins in a 4-3 loss on February 2, 2020.
-- As good as Vitek Vanacek looked in goal in his NHL debut against Buffalo, he looked very much a rookie goalie in this one, allowing five goals on 30 shots and suffering from a lack of consistency more than lacking sharpness.
In the end…
The Caps earned a standings point in their fourth straight game. But before Caps fans get all cocky about it, they should be 3-0-1 (if not 4-0-0), not 2-0-2, and this year’s start is the same as last year’s start (2-0-2). There is much work to do before the home opener against Buffalo on Friday.