Thursday, April 29, 2021

A ONE-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 50: Penguins 5 - Capitals 4 (OT)

It was rivalry night in Washington as the Washington Capitals hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena.  It was two months since these teams last met, but the hiatus did nothing to diminish the intensity or the importance of this first of a two-game set.  It was a back and forth game, but the Penguin scored the last goal, in overtime, to take a 5-4 decision.

First Period

The Penguins dominated the pace early, but the Caps turned the momentum and capitalized on a power play.  With Evan Rodrigues in the penalty box for a delay of game/puck over glass call at 7:15, Nicklas Backstrom started the scoring play with a feed to Justin Schultz at the top of the offensive zone for a one-timer. The shot was re-directed by T.J. Oshie, camped out at the top of the crease, past goalie Tristan Jarry to make it 1-0, Caps, at the 7:27 mark.

Schultz went to the penalty box with his own two-minute sentence, an interference call at 7:56. Pittsburgh failed to convert that chance, but they evened the score late in the period when Kasperi Kapanen took advantage of an unforced error by Nicklas Backstrom, picking off a pass attempt Backstrom attempted from the left wing wall in the high slot, stepping up, and snapping a shot past goalie Vitek Vanecek at 15:27 of the period. It would be the last scoring of the first period.

-- Pittsburgh outshot the Caps, 14-10, in the period and out-attempted them, 24-23.

-- Dmitry Orlov and Daniel Sprong led the team with two shots on goal apiece; Sprong had four shot attempts.

-- Brenden Dillon led the Caps in ice time in the first 20 minutes (7:36).  The odd ice time number was Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had only 4:16 in the period.

Second Period

Washington went a man short early when Kuznetsov was whistled for holding at the 1:48 mark. Washington killed off the penalty and kept the game tied at one goal apiece.  The Penguins took their first lead of the game, though, when Frederick Gaudreau took a pass from Jason Zucker on the weak side and snapped a shot past Vanecek’s blocker on the short side at 8:32 of the period.

Dmitry Orlov tied the game once more at the 9:02 mark when Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to Jarry’s right back to Orlov, and Orlov blasted a shot through traffic, off Jarry, off the post, and in to make it a 2-2 game.

Washington went the power play when Marcus Pettersson hauled down T.J. Oshie and went to the box for a holding call at 9:22.  The Caps were not able to convert the opportunity, though, and the game remained tied.

Daniel Sprong gave the Caps the lead late in the period when, with Brian Dumouilin draped all over him at the post to Jarry’s right, he re-directed a Justin Schultz drive up and over the right pad of Jarry to make it 3-2 at the 15:07 mark.

The Caps lead did not make it to the end of the period, though.  Zach Aston-Reese tied the game at the 18:11 mark… That would be how the teams went to the second intermission.

-- Washington outshot the Penguins, 17-11, in the period and out-attempted them, 23-19.

-- Anthony Mantha and Conor Sheary were the only Caps without a shot attempt through 40 minutes.

-- Brenden Dillon led the team with six credited hits through two periods.

Third Period

The teams fought to a draw for the first half of the period, but the Penguins took the lead in the 11th minute.  Kasperi Kapanen scored his second goal of the game when he took a long cross-ice lead pass from Jared McCann, skated into the right wing circle, and snapped a shot over the left shoulder of Vanecek on the short side to make it 4-3, Penguins, at the 10:55 mark.

The Caps dug the hole a little deeper when Michael Raffl was charged with a holding penalty at the 15:35 mark. Washington skated off the penalty, but they were still left trying to erase the one-goal deficit.

And they Caps did just that with 14.3 seconds left when Kuznetsov out-fought Sidney Crosby and Brian Dumoulin to free the puck out of the corner to Jarry’s left to send it to Tom Wilson in the low slot.  He settled the puck and blasted it past Jarry to tie the game, which is how regulation ended, sending the contest to…


Jake Guentzel won it for the Penguins in overtime...blech. 

Other stuff…

-- Both teams clinched playoff spots with the overtime outcome.  The teams are tied in standings points, but the Caps retain the top spot in the East Division by virtue of fewer games played.

-- This was the fourth time in seven meetings that the teams went to extra time, the Penguins winning all of them.

-- The Caps outshot the Penguins, 37-35; both teams had 61 shot attempts.

-- Dmitry Orlov, T.J. Oshie, and Carl Hagelin led the team with four shots apiece; Orlov had nine shot attempts.

-- The Caps were credited with 32 hits to the Penguins’ 14.  Brenden Dillon led the team with seven.

-- Justin Schultz led the team with 23:09 I ice time; Garnet Hathaway had the least (10:28).

-- Conor Sheary was the only Capital without a shot attempt.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had three assists, the 44th game of his career with three or more assists, extending his all-time lead in franchise history in this category.

-- Dmitry Orlov had a goal and an assist, bringing his scoring line to 3-5-8 in his last nine games.

-- Vitek Vanecek allowed five goals on 35 shots, the second time this season he allowed five goals to Pittsburgh in an extra time game (January 19th, another 5-4 overtime loss, was the other).

In the end…

The best one could say is that it could have been worse.  But four goals with Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson out of the lineup is something to build on.  Then again, the worst one could say is the Caps just had too many unforced errors in this game that led to Penguin chances – either scoring chances or power play opportunities.  And it is becoming apparent that Vitek Vanecek’s inconsistency (the third time in four games he allowed four or more goals, the fourth instance being a shutout) is going to do him in in his battle with Ilya Samsonov for the number one goaltending role.  But still, we can still refer to the Caps as the East Division leaders, and that’s not a bad thing.