After the game, Sidney Crosby handed the game MVP helmet to his linemate Kapanen, which was a well-deserved honor.
"Just a big game for him, and you're always excited for your teammates like that when that happens," said Kapanen's other linemate Guentzel. "Just a huge effort by him and glad he could get that done for us."
The play that led to Kapanen's goal started after a shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov missed the net. Jarry swept it up the boards, where Teddy Blueger picked it up. Kapanen said he yelled to him that they had a 2-on-1, and Blueger found him for a one-timer that beat Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek shortside.
"Lucky enough it went in," Kapanen said. "It's a good feeling to be able to help the team win and see the smiles on your teammates' faces. It's been a while since I've scored, so that's always a bit of a confidence booster, too."
The 24-year-old winger couldn't have bounced back any better after playing just one shift in the third period of Pittsburgh's previous game, a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
"I thought this was one of Kappy's best games, if not his best game, as a Penguin," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He was much more involved in the forecheck. He stayed engaged in the offensive zone with his linemates. I think his speed was more evident, and obviously the goal he scored, you can see how capable of a goal scorer he is with the speed he has. And with that scoring touch, we think he can be a real important player for us."
It was a big difference from the other night, when Sullivan that Kapanen just didn't have his game going. The two of them talked on Monday, and Sullivan said they were very much on the same page as to what the expectations were moving forward skating with Crosby and Guentzel.
"It was a good time to have a conversation with him and kind of reset and look back at the past games that I've played, which obviously haven't been good enough," said Kapanen, who had two goals and seven points in 13 games entering tonight. "To play with Sid and Jake, it's obviously a privilege. I think our line played better today and I felt like I took strides forward in the right direction. But there's still room to improve."
Their line really was terrific all night. Guentzel in particular had himself a game as well, as he finished with a goal, an assist and six shots in over 20 minutes of ice time and was just involved physically.
"Just felt good around the whole ice there," he said. "It's fun to get up for these games; these are the games you want to play in, and you've got to be ready for these kinds of moments. We know what kind of team they are, so we know they're going to push back on Thursday, but we just got to focus on keeping it simple out there against these guys."
2. Pens play one of their most complete games
It was one of those nights where everybody was involved, and there weren't any passengers. Everybody did their part, from Evgeni Malkin on the power play to Sam Lafferty on the fourth line.
It resulted in one of Pittsburgh's most complete games of the year, and one they deserved to win, even if they hadn't been able to recover from the 2-1 deficit they found themselves in during the second period. Fortunately they did, and got the two points as a result.
"From top to bottom, we were playing hard, we were competing against a good team," Sullivan said. "You can't always control whether the puck goes in the net or not. We ended up chasing the game a little bit at one point, but I thought regardless of what happened in the game, we just kept trying to compete, trying to play the game hard, trying to stay in the moment. I think that's when our team is at its best."
The Penguins outplayed the Capitals in so many facets of the game, outshooting them 37-22 and dominating them in special teams. In their last meeting with Washington, the Penguins got into penalty trouble. They were called for four infractions in the second period, and the game completely got away from them.
Tonight, the Penguins did a much better job of staying out of the box. And the two times they did get sent there, the penalty kill was tremendous. They gave up barely anything to the Caps, who struggled to get set up and didn't register a shot on goal. They also went 1-for-2 on the power play.
With the victory, the Penguins have now won five of their last six games and improved to 4-1 against Washington this season.
3. Zucker leaves with injury
Forward Jason Zucker left in the third period and did not return. He got injured when his skate clipped the skate of Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen and sent him awkwardly into the boards in front of the Penguins bench.
His teammates watched with concern as he was tended to by head athletic trainer Chris Stewart. Zucker eventually had to be helped off the ice. Sullivan said after the game that Zucker was being evaluated for a lower-body injury.
"He's a popular guy," Sullivan said. "He's a real good person. He's a great teammate. He's totally invested in the Penguins. And anytime a teammate like that goes down, there's obvious concern from everybody, because we all care about him. He's really become one of the one of the quiet leaders in the locker room. He's a veteran guy for us. He plays the game hard. He's a popular guy in our room."
In Zucker's absence, Zach Aston-Reese moved up to play with Malkin and Bryan Rust. Lafferty slotted into his spot with Blueger and Brandon Tanev.