Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 8-7 overtime win over Washington…
First of all, just what a game. The guys were joking in the locker room afterward that it's definitely the kind of matchup that's good for the fans. "That's why we do it," laughed Trevor Daley.
After going down 3-0, the Pens got a spark from Patric Hornqvist. The Swede was extra feisty tonight, trying to hit everything that moved. At one point, he was a one-man wrecking ball in the offensive zone. He laid a big hit on T.J. Oshie in the corner before going to the front of the net, where he ended up getting into it with Daniel Winnik. The two of them went to the box, and the Pens ended up scoring twice during 4-on-4 play. It was absolutely the turning point of the game.
Hornqvist said this morning that the Pens needed to try and take the momentum when they had a chance, and they certainly did that after getting two quick ones. The Pens just kept coming at the Caps (who went from playing on their toes to their heels), started putting everything at the net and got some fortunate bounces. As a result, they turned a 2-0 deficit into a 6-5 lead. The nine combined goals scored in the second established a Pens team record for combined goals in a period.
That's especially impressive when you consider that coming into this game, the Caps hadn't allowed an even-strength goal since January 3 against Toronto. They had shutouts in four of their past six games, allowing just three goals over that span, and were just playing incredibly stingy hockey. But the Pens were able to solve them, and it all starts with Evgeni Malkin - who got the comeback started and ended up with three on the night. His first goal ended the Caps' streak at 395:42 minutes.
There was that trademark resiliency we haven't really seen from the Pens in a while. They got off to another lackluster start, registering just one shot in the first 10 minutes of play and allowing the Caps to take a 3-0 lead early in the second. Having lost three straight, they seemed destined to drop a fourth. But they didn't get frustrated. They continued to plug away, drawing on their past experiences, and eventually were able to break the game open.
"I think the thing we're most pleased about is the resilience," head coach Mike Sullivan said after the game. "You get down three goals to a real good team like that and I thought at that particular point in the game, that game could have went one of two ways. That could have turned into a rout quickly. And it didn't. I give our guys a ton of credit for that. I just think we've got a resilient group and they know they're capable of coming back in games when they get down multiple goals. We love that about this group."
This obviously wasn't the strongest defensive effort from Pittsburgh. I thought they backed off too much when the Caps were coming up the ice with the puck. One of the oldest hockey clichés is not giving opponents time and space, and the Pens did that a little too much. They also struggled with awareness, especially around the net. Definitely a lot that needs to be cleaned up.