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#CapsPens Postgame Notebook: One Down

For just the second time in 10 postseason series with Pens, the Caps drop Game 1; Ovechkin continues to hold hot postseason hand vs. Pens.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Washington's checkered postseason history against the Penguins consists of eight series losses in nine previous series, but until Thursday night, the Caps had won Game 1 in eight of those nine series. 

Make it eight of 10 now, because the Penguins prevailed 3-2 in Thursday's series opener at Verizon Center. 

After a quiet first frame that resembled a couple of heavyweights feeling each other out, the Penguins pounced on the Caps in the first two minutes of the second. A Washington mistake in neutral ice led to a two-on-one for the Penguins, and Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby finished a great feed from rookie winger Jake Guentzel to lift the Pens to a 1-0 lead just 12 seconds into the middle stanza.
Video: WSH Recap: Caps erase 2-0 deficit, but lose Game 1
A mere 52 seconds later, the Caps were unable to rein in a rebound of an Olli Maatta point shot, and Crosby buried the rebound to make it a 2-0 game. 

As was the case in Game 1 of their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Caps found themselves staring at a two-goal hole on home ice early in a series opening game. Washington was able to rally and win that series opener with the Leafs by a 3-2 count thanks to Tom Wilson's overtime game-winner, but this time the Caps were able to come back only to tie the game, and not win it.

That's because Nick Bonino scored the game-winner for the Pens on a semi-breakaway late in the third period, putting the Pens up 3-2 after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored to tie the game for the Capitals. 

Pittsburgh played Game 1 after a one-week layoff after ousting the Columbus Blue Jackets from the playoffs in a five-game, first-round series. 
Video: ALL CAPS | April 27
"I really liked the first period," says Pens coach Mike Sullivan. "I thought it was fairly tight checking; I don't think there were a lot of scoring chances on either side. But I certainly liked the way that we came out.

"We had energy and for the most part, we made pretty smart decisions with the puck. We were helping each other come out of our end zone on the breakouts, and that's been a point of emphasis for us in the last week. We spent a lot of time both on the ice and in watching film in trying to come out a little bit cleaner, and I thought our guys helped one another there. So there was a lot to like in that first period." 

Only once previously did the Caps drop a Game 1 to the Pens, and that was in 2000 when Pittsburgh rolled to a 7-0 win in the series opener in the District. 
Video: Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan talks after Game 1
Resilience - In surrendering two goals early in the second period of what had been a scoreless game to that point, the Capitals were perhaps guilty of inflicting some unforced adversity upon themselves. But there was no panic or worry, and Washington did a lot of great work on the ice to get itself back into the game. 

In the final five and a half minutes of the second period, the Caps owned a 13-1 advantage in shot attempts and a 7-1 lead in hits. John Carlson decked Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, and Ovechkin's goal halved Pittsburgh's lead shortly thereafter. 

Washington continued its offensive zone domination in the third, and the Caps ended up with a 44-14 bulge in shot attempts over the final 25:35 of play on Thursday.
Video: Caps players talk after 3-2 loss in Game 1
"Other than the first 10 minutes [of the game] and the first minute of the second period," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, "I thought we played all right. When we play good and we know we're capable of playing that way for 60 minutes, we're a good hockey team. 

"We've just got to try to forget about this one, learn from it, and move on."

Great Eight - Ovechkin's goal game with 1:43 remaining in the second period. He has now earned at least a point in 12 of Washington's 14 postseason games against the Penguins during the course of his career. Ovechkin has 11 goals and 22 points in those 14 career playoff tilts against the Pens. 
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Ovechkin picks the corner with rocket
You Again - When the Pens bounced the Caps from the second round of the playoffs in a six-game series last spring, it was Bonino's overtime goal that ultimately did Washington in. In Thursday's series opener, an excellent stretch pass from Ian Cole helped spring Bonino into the Washington zone with a step on Caps defenseman Brooks Oprik, and Bonino was able to beat Caps goalie Braden Holtby on the stick side for what would prove to be the game-winner with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation. 

Bonino's game-winning shot was Pittsburgh's first shot on net in more than five and a half minutes.

"Bones is a guy that is a high stakes player, says Sullivan. "He brings his best game when the game is the most important. We've got a lot of guys on our roster that we can say that about, and that's part of what we love about our group of players."

Bonino totaled four goals and 18 points in 24 games during Pittsburgh's run to a Cup championship last spring, and six of his 14 career playoff goals have been game-winners. 
Video: Coach Trotz talks after 3-2 loss in Game 1 vs. Pens
Outta The Way - The Pens blocked 29 shots in Game 1, with 19 of those coming from Pittsburgh blueliners, led by Cole's eight. While the Capitals dominated play in terms of puck possession in the Pens' end for long stretches of time, the Pittsburgh skaters did great work mitigating the Caps' offensive-zone time and puck possession by continually getting sticks and bodies in the way of so many shots.

April Flower - The Caps have certainly seen a lot of veteran Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury over the years, and they've seen him at his best and they've seen him a good bit south of his best over the last decade plus. 

Fleury was rock solid for his team in Game 1, stopping 33 of 35 shots and making a series of key denials during an elongated goalmouth scramble late in the third period. He had his share of help from his teammates, too. Guentzel laid out to block what was likely a certain T.J. Oshie goal in the first period when Fleury found himself out of position, the most notable of Pittsburgh's 29 shot blocks on the night. 

"I thought Washington pushed hard; they pressed," says Sullivan. "And I thought we defended hard, and we got some timely saves." 

In The House - Retired late night host David Letterman was in attendance at Thursday's Game 1, as were ex-Caps Peter Bondra and Joe Reekie. 
Video: Late Show with David Letterman host at #CapsPens
When the Caps defeated the Penguins in the playoffs in a six-game series in 1994, it was Reekie who scored both Washington goals in Game 3 of that series at USAir Arena in Landover. Reekie's two tallies supported the 27-save efforts of Don Beaupre in the Washington nets that night. 

By The Numbers - Washington out-attempted the Penguins by 83-41 and outhit them 41-17 … For the fourth time in 245 playoff games in franchise history, the Caps did not have a single power play opportunity in Thursday's Game 1. All four of those games without a power play have come since 2009. Washington's penalty killing unit has never had the luxury of a kill-free game in those 245 postseason contests … Matt Niskanen led the Capitals with 20:46 in ice time and five shots on net … Kuznetsov led the Caps with 10 shot attempts … Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk led Washington with two blocked shots each.

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