Thoughts and observations from the Penguins' 6-2 victory over the Capitals in Game Two...
What more can I even say about the play of Marc-Andre Fleury? (Which, for the record, is exactly how Mike Sullivan feels as well). He's been just terrific all postseason and was particularly brilliant tonight. The Caps completely dominated the Pens - I mean dominated - in the first period, and he was the only reason they were scoreless after 20. He put the team on his shoulders and carried them through to intermission. Fleury kept them in it as the Caps continued to surge and allowed them to eventually break through late in the second. As Sullivan said after the game, Fleury has been their best player.
Another player that stepped up when his team needed him most - to no surprise - is Sidney Crosby. He pretty much single-handedly swung the momentum back to Pittsburgh's side. He created both plays that led to the second and third goals. The effort on both was just unreal. He helped them grab onto that momentum and hold onto it, something they struggled with mightily for most of the first two periods. They went from being drastically outplayed to chasing Braden Holtby from the net and really settling into the game.
The Pens are so fortunate to have so many difference-makers on their team, as their other superstars stepped up as well. Phil Kessel played a phenomenal game, scoring two absolutely timely goals at key moments - both with his famous shot. One came at even-strength and the other on the power play. He had said yesterday that they needed to be better with the man advantage, saying any time you get a power play in the playoffs, you have to make it count. He put his words into action.
Later, Evgeni Malkin gave the Pens a big cushion that's always important against a team as talented and deep as Washington.
The Pens didn't take one penalty in Game 1. Tonight, they were assessed four in the first 15 minutes of play. They talked before the game about how they needed to continue staying disciplined, but got away from that. Fortunately, Fleury and the PKers battled and came up big with key kills.
They even got a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen on a terrific individual effort. Cullen blocked a shot and then walked around Kevin Shattenkirk, who hooked him as he blew by and was called for a delayed penalty. But there turned out to be no need for that, as Cullen skated in and fooled Holtby five-hole. Unfortunately, the Pens weren't able to keep the momentum on their side as the Caps ended up tying it on that same power play, but it was still a big goal.
While the Pens got one player back in Carl Hagelin, they lost one in Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist blocked a shot with about six minutes left in the first period and did not return. In his absence, Sullivan shuffled his lines, putting both Conor Sheary and Rust with Crosby and Guentzel at times. Both Tom Kuhnhackl and Ron Hainsey also left the game late in regulation after blocking shots. Hainsey took one off the side of his helmet off a shot from Alex Ovechkin. Sullivan had no updates after the game.