Washington struck first. Nicklas Backstrom sent a pass cross ice from low in the left wing circle to Nick Jensen at the top of the right wing circle, then headed for the front of the net. As Backstrom was doing so, Jensen curled in and snapped a pass onto Backstrom’s tape, and all that was left was for Backstrom to redirect the feed past goalie Tristan Jarry’s right pad to make it 1-0, 11:20 into the period.
Pittsburgh had a chance to tie the game when Lars Eller went to the penalty box on a tripping call at 11:40 of the period. The Caps held them off the board, though, and they held onto the lead as the teams got back to even strength. The Pens got another chance on the power play at 15:27 when Tom Wilson went off for interference. The Caps made it 2-for-2 in killing penalties, though, and the teams played on. It would be how the period ended.
-- The Caps owned a 12-11 edge in shots on goal and a 22-21 advantage in shot attempts.
-- Washington won 12 of 22 draws (54.5 percent); Lars Eller was a sparkling 7-for-7.
-- Tom Wilson led the club with three credited hits. That did not include the one that sent him to the penalty box.
-- Dmitry Orlov led the Caps with 7:21 in ice time.
The Pens got their third power play of the game when John Carlson was sent off for goaltender interference at 4:03. And for the third time, the Caps kept Pittsburgh off the board. The Caps were awarded their first man advantage at 9:09, Evgeni Malkin to the box for hooking. The two minutes went by without a shot on goal for the Caps, and it remained a 1-0 game.
Washington went a man short for the fourth time in the contest when Evgeny Kuznetsov was ticketed for tripping at 15:36 of the period. The Caps skated off that shorthanded situation, and the teams skated off after 40 minutes with the Caps clinging to their 1-0 lead.
-- Washington led in shots on goal after 40 minutes, 27-21, and had a 50-40 edge in shot attempts.
-- Alex Ovechkin led the club through two periods with five shots on goal and eight shot attempts.
-- Washington had an amazing (for them) 25-for-42 record on faceoffs (59.5 percent). All four centers were over 50 percent through 40 minutes.
-- Garnet Hathaway not having a shot attempt through two period is not that surprising. Richard Panik? More surprising and more troubling.
The Caps finally got the goal to double their lead, coming in the fourth minute of the period. From the left wing wall, Lars Eller fed T.J. Oshie entering the offensive zone down the middle. Oshie worked the puck around Mike Matheson, who took Oshie down, but Oshie managed to one hand the puck between Jarry’s pads at 3:18 to make it 2-0.
Washington went to the man advantage at the 3:32 mark when
Kris (a.k.a. “Kristopher”) Letang went to the box for hooking. And with the
Caps on the power play, it was the Penguins who promptly halved the lead, Brendan
Tanev scoring unassisted. And then, Pittsburgh
tied the game at the 7:22 mark, Jake Guentzel getting the goal for the Pens.
Washington got their third power play of the evening at the 9:07 mark and a chance to regain momentum when Drew O’Connor was sent off for hooking. Tom Wilson made the Pens pay. With Kris Letang playing without a stick, John Carlson’s pass from the right wing wall was redirected past Jarry on the blocker side to make it 3-2.
With the Penguins net empty, Carl Hagelin sealed the deal. Working around Letang, who once more was without a stick (this one he broke), Hagelin worked the puck down the left wing wall, cut to the middle around Evgeni Malkin, and backhanded the biscuit into the back of the net at 18:38. Lars Eller added another empty netter at 19:08 to make it 5-2, the final score.
-- In the first five games of this season's series, the Caps took leads in four of them (five different leads in all; they led 2-1 and 3-2 in a 4-3 Gimmick loss on January 17th) and lost three of those games. Tonight was the sixth time that the Caps took a lead against the Penguins. The Caps took a 2-0 lead in this one and coughed it up.
-- This was the first time in 11 games that the Caps scored five or more goals. The last time was in a 6-3 win over the New York Islanders on January 28th.
-- This was the first time the Caps had two empty net goals in a single game since they recorded a pair in a 5-2 win in Detroit against the Red Wings on November 30, 2019. It was the first time they did it at home since November 30, 2018, when they had two in a 6-3 win over New Jersey.
-- Washington out-shot the Penguins, 35-27, and they out-attempted them, 66-52.
-- Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps with five shots on goal; Alex Ovechkin led the club in shot attempts with nine.
-- Backstrom recorded his ninth goal of the season. He is on a pace for 27 goals in 56 games, which would be his second-best goal total for a season. The amazing part...his best of 33 goals in 2009-2010 was in 82 games.
-- With that goal on five shots, Backstrom’s shooting percentage for the season actually went down, from 22.2 percent entering the game to 22.0 percent.
-- Brenden Dillon and Tom Wilson led the club in credited hits with four apiece.
-- Washington had a 35-for-57 record on draws. That 61.4 percent winning percentage is their best of the season (previously: 54.4 percent on 31-for-57 against the New York Rangers in a 4-2 loss on February 4th.
-- Every Capital had at least one shot on goal except for Garnet Hathaway.
In the end…
Giving up a two-goal lead in bang-bang fashion was the blemish on the game, but the Caps didn’t let the Pens get that tie-breaking goal. And the power play, which looked awful in its first two chances this evening, converted on its third chance when it counted, Tom Wilson getting what would prove to be the game-winning goal. Wins over the Pens are never easy, but they are always satisfying. And what makes this one even better is that with the Boston Bruins losing to the New York Islanders this evening, 7-2, the Caps are now in a standings points tie with the Bruins at the top of the East Division.