Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Second Round.
*The media loves to play up the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin angle for their postseason coverage. But this matchup is bigger than 2 men. It's about the best 2 teams in the NHL going head-to-head with everything on the line.
However, Game 1 was indeed about Crosby and Ovechkin. It wasn't quite the dueling hat tricks from Game 2 of the 2009 series, but both captains came through for their respective teams.
Crosby scored 2 goals in a 52-second span in the opening 1:04 of the second period to give the Pens a 2-0 lead. Ovechkin answered late in the second period with his first tally of the series to cut to score to 2-1.
Both players had huge impacts on the game.
*In last season's Second Round series against the Capitals, it was the breakout party for the HBK Line. Center Nick Bonino continued that trend in Game 1 by breaking the 2-2 tie late in the third period and scoring the game-winner.
Bonino saw an open lane and jumped up ice as the Pens were rimming the puck out of their zone. He beat Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik to the inside and had a clear lane to the net.
Scott Wilson chipped the puck to Bonino and he warded off an Orpik slash to beat goalie Braden Holtby in the six-hole. Bonino has a scored a lot of clutch goals for the Pens in the postseason, particularly against the Caps. In Game 1, he did it again.
*Marc-Andre Fleury put on his best performance of the entire playoff slate to date. I'm not talking about just his 33 saves, 15 of which came in the third period. But the way he tracked the puck, the angles he took and most importantly the fundamentals he displayed.
In the second period, an errant shot was deflected off the end boards. Fleury alertly jettisoned his pad against the post to prevent any fluky type goals. It was a great read-and-react play and showed the Fleury's head was in the game. When Fleury is hitting his fundamentals and angles, his athleticism makes him nearly unbeatable.
*The Pens talked a lot during the First Round about having better starts. Yet it was Columbus that was the better team in all 5 games of that series. So the talk continued heading into the Second Round against Washington.
This time the Pens put their talk into action. Pittsburgh had its best first period of the postseason against Washington. The Pens weren't overwhelmed or trapped in their own zone. The Capitals didn't dominate possession or momentum. It was an evenly played opening frame by both teams.
More importantly, the Pens took the crowd out of the game. The Caps had scored 8 of their 18-playoff goals in the first period during Round One. That number remained unchanged after 20 minutes.
*We've talked a lot about Jake Guentzel's offensive prowess, and with good reason as he leads the Pens with 5 playoff goals. But tonight he was even bigger in his own end, particularly in the crease. Guentzel made two huge saves for his goaltender.
The first was a split skate save on the goal line. The second came late in the third period as the Caps were threatening with the extra attacker. Guentzel sacrificed the body for his team and it saved the contest.