Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 4-2 loss against the Washington Capitals in Game 5.
* The Pens held a 2-1 lead after the first two periods. And with their backs against the wall, the Caps played their best hockey of the series in the third. Their stars stepped up, as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov all scored goals - with the third and fourth coming in a 27-second span. After looking shaky early, Braden Holtby stepped up to make clutch and timely saves and showed why he is a Vezina Trophy candidate. They had the crowd behind him absolutely shaking this building. All of that resulted in the Caps grabbing onto the momentum and not letting go.
* That's something the Pens have been talking about all playoffs - momentum swings. They felt like they had it going into the final frame, and kept it in those first few minutes. But when Backstrom scored to even it up, they said they didn't do a good enough job of staying even-keeled and coming right back to get a third goal. Definitely something to learn from moving forward into Game 6, and they said they will be better in that regard.
* Watching from up top, it also felt like the Pens just didn't make it hard enough for the Caps. They weren't tough enough to play against. Their desperation level wasn't as high. They didn't manage the puck well and made some poor decisions that ended up in the back of their net. But I have full confidence they'll rectify that come Monday night.
* One positive is that the Pens got Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary back after they missed Game 4 with concussions sustained in Game 3. Crosby slotted right back in with Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist, while Sheary skated with Nick Bonino and Bryan Rust. Crosby said afterward he felt good and that he and his linemates had some chances, but just missed on them. He added that some nights, you just don't execute as well.
* Another positive is that Pittsburgh's penalty kill was phenomenal in this game. What stood out to me the most was how they got good, hard clears. Not the ones that just barely cross the blue line and allow the opponent to regroup quickly and come back in. The ones that the Pens got good wood on and ripped down the length of the ice, making the Caps go all the way back. And of course, the couple of chances Washington got, Marc-Andre Fleury was there to turn aside with some brilliant saves.
* Overall, the Pens did some really good things in the first 40 minutes in order to get that lead. While they once again didn't have a whole lot of shots, they did have a decent amount of offensive zone time and did a good job of working the puck down low. The defensemen did a good job of breaking the puck out. And the power play went 1-for-2. Games like this are where you realize just how ridiculously loaded Pittsburgh's top unit is. The goal they scored on was a truly exquisite display of passing. From behind the net, Crosby pushed it to Evgeni Malkin, who crossed it over to Phil Kessel, who went down on one knee to snipe it into a tiny window. Just unfair.