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3 Impressions: Pens 3, Caps 2 OT (Game 4)

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime win against the Washington Capitals in Game 4 at CONSOL Energy Center.

This was a much, much better effort from the Pens compared to Game 3. And it was the definition of a tight game, as it was two strong teams grinding it out. Heading into the third, it was anyone’s game and the Caps tilted the ice in their favor early in the period as the Pens had trouble breaking it out despite battling for pucks in the corners and along the walls. But the Pens continued to work and gut it out, making it to overtime – where they dictated the pace, unlike their last extra frame against these guys back in Game 1, and got a huge goal just a few minutes in as a result.

Head coach Mike Sullivan on the game: "I thought we were skating, we were on our toes. I think our team is at its best when we’re on the attack. When we play that way, I think we’re harder to play against. We can control territory, we spend less time in our end zone and it allows us to play to our strengths. I thought we did a much better job of that tonight. We didn’t spend as much time in our end zone. When we did, I thought our guys defended pretty hard. These are two pretty good hockey teams going at each other so they’re going to get their time in our end zone and we’re going to get our time too, because I believe we have pretty good players as well. What I liked about our game tonight was we got a real solid effort throughout our lineup from the forward position on back. When our forwards are skating the way they were, pursuing pucks, hanging onto pucks down low, making sure that they get on the right side of people so they’ve got to come through three, four, five of us to get to our end zone, then we’re a much better team. I thought we did a much better job of that in this game."

The Pens defensemen knew they had their work cut out for them tonight. They would be without Kris Letang against the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winners who finished the regular season with a dominant offense and power play. And overall, they put forth a heck of an effort. Trevor Daley was incredible, absorbing the bulk of Letang’s minutes and chipping in a big early goal. He finished with 28:41 of ice time and was strong on special teams. I was also impressed with Justin Schultz, who had to step into a big role after not playing since Game 1 of the First Round. He said numerous times over the past few days that the strength of his game was jumping up into the rush and creating offense, and I liked that he didn’t hesitate to do that – hitting a post early in the night as a result. I also thought his partner Ian Cole was an absolute beast on the penalty kill, which thwarted both of Washington's chances, and in his own end. That group did a tremendous job, and definitely deserve the team day off on Thursday.

The Pens’ power play has cooled off this series after being red-hot in the first round against the Rangers. Tonight, its lack of execution was noticeable as the Pens didn’t score on any of their four chances – including a golden opportunity with 3:38 left in regulation after Sidney Crosby drew a high-sticking call on top penalty killer Karl Alzner. With the game on the line, the Pens couldn’t get much of anything going and struggled to gain the zone. They didn’t convert and are now 0-for-14 through four games against the Caps. While Sullivan said the other day he didn’t want his guys to get discouraged because they were doing a lot of good things, they do need it to start being a difference-maker, especially in these close games.

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