The Penguins won their third straight game with a 6-3 victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center Sunday afternoon.
Chris Kunitz recorded his third career hat trick and Sidney Crosby notched three assists. Pittsburgh also had two-point performances from Matt Cooke (1G-1A), Kris Letang (1G-1A) and Evgeni Malkin (2). Paul Martin also tallied for the Penguins.
Mike Green, John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro scored for Washington.
TRICK AND TREAT
Kunitz has been battling through an illness that has kept him out of the team’s past few practices, but he’s still laced up the skates for the Penguins in the past three games. And the way he’s playing, he might want to keep the bug.
Kunitz scored three goals for the Penguins and was a factor on another – setting a screen for Martin’s first-period goal (the goal was originally credited to Kunitz, but later changed to Martin, although consensus in the room is that Kunitz did indeed score it). Update: Goal was changed back to Kunitz Monday morning giving him four in the game.
“He got four,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “That was four. It was nice to see him get rewarded for his hard work.”
Either way, three goals ain’t too shabby either.
“I’m just trying to put the puck on net,” Kunitz said. “I was fighting it for quite a few games, too. I changed some things, try to get into better areas on the ice. Luckily a couple of them went in.”
Kunitz gave the Penguins a 4-2 lead seven minutes into the second period. Sidney Crosby carried the puck down the near side and dropped to Kunitz, who absolutely rifled a slap shot that past goalie Braden Holtby at the speed of light.
Kunitz upped Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-2 with a power-play tally late in the middle frame. Malkin made a sweet cross-ice pass through a couple of bodies and onto the stick of Kunitz. On his off side, Kunitz snapped it opposite side into the net.
Kunitz sealed the hat trick with a late 5-on-3 goal with 7.2 seconds remaining in regulation. He took a feed from Crosby and one-timed a shot that found the back of the net. Although at that time, Kunitz thought it was his fourth goal.
“I didn’t know they took (the first one) away from me,” Kunitz said. “Obviously, it feels good.”
Kunitz has four goals and six points in the last two games for the Penguins. And the players joked it’s because he has fresh legs from not practicing with his illness.
“The guys were saying after the game that he got some rest with the missed practice,” head coach Dan Bylsma joked. “He got the hat trick regardless.”
Regardless, Kunitz was thrilled with the victory.
“That’s how it bounces, no really cares around here,” Kunitz said. “We’re worried about the two points and getting our team headed in the right direction. No one cares about that other stuff.”
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun recorded a win against his former team, stopping 21 of 24 shots. He was particularly strong late in the third period when the Capitals, trailing by two goals, were pressing hard to score.
Vokoun stopped Alex Ovechkin on a shot from the slot after a nice curl and drag play. Vokoun also went post-to-post to stop a wraparound try to Marcus Johansson.
One of the goals scored against Vokoun came on a freaky play. Washington’s John Carlson dumped a puck into the offensive zone high off the glass. Vokoun exited his net to retrieve the puck. However, it hit an odd spot in the glass and re-directed toward the empty goal. Vokoun stumbled trying to recover, but tripped up as the puck slid over the goal line.
Vokoun handled the play as he is supposed to, cutting off the puck’s trajectory to make a play. Can’t blame him on that one. It’s a once in a lifetime freak play. Well, twice in a lifetime.
“In Chicago 12 years ago or so,” Vokoun said of having a fluke goal similar. “I remember it really good. They’re rare but it happens. Thankfully, we won. In Chicago we lost. This one doesn’t feel as bad.”
The game-changing moment occurred after the Capitals scored their fluky goal (explained above) to tie the game at 2-2 four minutes into the second period. Instead of hanging their heads, the Penguins responded by scoring three times and taking complete control of the game.
“It wasn’t always going smooth in that second period,” Bylsma said. “They get a bounce off the glass. We had to respond to that and continue to play consistent in our game and mentality, not get frustrated. I thought our guys did a great job of that.
“That response in the second half of the second period is the mentality that our team needs to have. You can feel it, not only on the ice, but on the bench and in our focus.”
Author: Sam Kasan