Washington’s unbeaten streak in Pittsburgh (they had gone 9-0-1 in their last 10 games here) ended Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center as the Penguins, buoyed by their power play, got a 5-2 win over the Capitals to extend their winning streak to five straight games. The Penguins scored all five of their goals in the second period.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both finished with three points (1G-2A) to lead the Penguins while Pascal Dupuis, James Neal and Matt Cooke also scored for Pittsburgh.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro scored for Washington.
Washington went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. But they were reeling entering the second intermission, as the Penguins blew this game wide open in the second period when they scored five consecutive goals to take a hefty 5-1 lead into the third period and had the crowd roaring.
Malkin, Dupuis, Neal, Cooke and Crosby scored in that order for the Penguins.
"That doesn’t happen every night," Crosby said. "And especially to be at home, to be putting goals in like that and capitalizing, it’s a lot of fun. You could feel the energy in the building and guys were really working off that. Every line was hopping over there expecting to create a chance and make something happen, and it’s nice to see everyone get rewarded."
After Pittsburgh's penalty kill excelled in their last game, a win over the Islanders on Tuesday, on Thursday it was the power play's turn to dominate as they converted all three of their power-play chances (more on that below). And two of their goals came just 11 seconds apart with about three-and-a-half minutes left to play to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead, a sequence that deflated the Capitals.
Pittsburgh’s first goal came on the man-advantage 6:59 into the frame when Malkin absolutely sniped a gorgeous shot top shelf, far side from the left circle past goalie Michal Neuvirth off a perfect cross-ice feed from Crosby. Neuvirth didn’t even react to it even though he wasn’t screened since it was so fast and precise, and it gave the Penguins needed momentum after a slow first period.
"He makes a great shot there and we’re right back in the game," Crosby said. "I feel like it gave our power play a boost, too. It looked like we were pretty confident from there on in on the power play. Nice to get an early one there and build off of it."
"That first goal was as good of a shot as I think you’re going to see," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "Was a pretty impressive shot."
Dupuis made it 2-1 at the 12:49 mark when he beat Neuvirth five-hole with a bouncing shot on even strength, which resulted in Caps coach Adam Oates pulling his goalie and replacing him with Braden Holtby. Both young netminders have been struggling for the Caps, who have now lost nine of 11 games.
With 3:27 left, Neal scored on the power play and 11 seconds later, Brandon Sutter won a faceoff back to Cooke, who promptly ripped a wrister past Holtby.
Crosby wrapped up the scoring frenzy on the power play with 21.2 seconds left in the period to elicit roars from the 18,650 in attendance.
"In the first we probably played a 50-50 game, and then in the second we took control," Crosby said.
POWER PLAY DOMINATES
Though the Penguins were without usual power-play quarterback Kris Letang on Thursday (he missed the game with a lower-body injury) Paul Martin did an excellent job filling in on the first unit and the Penguins’ power play operated on another level against the Capitals.
The Penguins and their top unit of Martin, Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Kunitz went 3-for-4 on the power play, converting all three of their opportunities in the second period.
"Guys are going to be in different spots, obviously injuries happen," Neal said. "We’re going to have some different looks. But we moved the puck well and shot it with every opportunity we got. Some good individual efforts from Sid and Geno there."
Malkin and Crosby each scored on the man-advantage and got the primary assist on the other’s goal. Neal also scored when he slipped a gorgeous forehand-to-backhand move past goalie Braden Holtby. It was his first point on home ice – his previous seven (6G-1A) had all come on the road entering Thursday’s game.
"Tonight we just worked pretty hard," Crosby said of their success. "We executed well. Next game we could go out and do the same things and maybe not score as many goals or it may not go in at all. But you’ve got to give yourself the best chance to score, and I thought our work ethic and our execution did that for us."
Bylsma liked the puck movement, saying "we moved the puck crisply and we were dangerous with the seam pass from Crosby to Malkin. ... Paul was great at getting to the middle. He had Geno and Sid on each side of them and distributed the puck really well, and that was a big factor. Paul was outstanding on (the power play) tonight. It was the difference in the game."
Crosby’s goal was redemption for a similar opportunity he missed just minutes earlier that Holtby made a miraculous save on.
On the first one, Crosby crashed the net to get his stick on a pass from Kunitz and it looked like he had a sure goal with Holtby out of position. But the Caps goalie dove back and corraled it with his blade.
But not soon after, Crosby drove to the crease again and knocked a Malkin shot out of mid-air and into the back of the net.
"Sid gets a single up the middle, which is a pretty outstanding goal," Bylsma joked after the game.
"I think it was going to miss the net anyway," Crosby said of his first attempt. "'Kuni' made a great play to put it through a couple guys. I didn’t pick it up till late. Didn’t get a lot of wood on it. I think that was a tough one to miss. You don’t get too many of those and that was a great pass. It was nice to be able to get one pretty soon after.
"We work on rebounds and stuff (in practice) and a lot of times rebounds end up in the air at some point. I think it’s just making sure you’re aware around the net and ready to jump on those. You kind of have fun with those sometimes in practice. Usually you don’t have to use it too much, but it was nice I was able to use it there."
REESE MAKES HOMETOWN DEBUT
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Dylan Reese dreamed of donning the black and gold as a member of his hometown Penguins.
His dream became a reality Thursday night when the 28-year-old Upper St. Clair native took the ice as a Penguin in front of a packed house of 18,650 fans at CONSOL Energy Center.
The 6-foot-1 defenseman, recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday night following a trade that sent Ben Lovejoy to Anaheim for a 2014 fifth-round draft pick, played 14:07 minutes for the Penguins and saw time on Pittsburgh’s second power play unit.Full story here
FLEURY LOSES HELMET
The Caps struck first on an odd sequence 4:12 into the first period. Wojtek Wolski and Brooks Orpik were tied up right in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, and it looked like one of them made contact with the Penguins goalie. He then fell backward onto the ice and his helmet flew off as a result. Mike Ribeiro picked up the loose puck and put it in the open net with Fleury down and helmetless.
Although many people told us on Twitter they didn’t like that play continued even though the goalie lost his helmet, the refs made the right call according to the official NHL rule book. If the Penguins had possession of the puck, play would have been stopped. If the Capitals had possession of the puck and there was no immediate and impending scoring opportunity, play would have been stopped. But since the Capitals had possession and there was an immediate and impending scoring opportunity, play was not stopped.
Here’s the exact wording of NHL Rule 9.5:
“When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has possession of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask. When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity. This stoppage of play must be made by the Referee. When play is stopped because the goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask, the ensuing face-off shall take place at one of the defending team’s end zone face-off spots.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said following the game that defenseman Kris Letang, who missed Thursday's game, is "day-to-day at this point in time with a lower-body injury."
Author: Michelle Crechiolo