Game 4: Penguins 3 – Capitals 2
Behind a 36 save performance from Marc Andre Fleury, the Pittsburgh Penguins hung on for dear life to secure a 3-2 win in Game 4 and put the Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination.
What many will be talking about is the Capitals outshot Pittsburgh 38-18 and out-attempted the Penguins 72-39. That’s now three games this series where the Capitals had at least 72 shot attempts and lost.
The Penguins once again had the Capitals chasing the game for most of the night.
So, yeah the Penguins continue to defy logic, they continue to get lucky, Dmitry Orlov putting a back into his own net tonight, T.J. Oshie getting called for a high sticking penalty in the final two minutes when his stick never hit Nick Bonino’s face, but at the end of the day, they just continue winning and maybe we all need to stop trying to make sense of it.
This might just become a great playoff run for a hockey team that doesn’t make sense and that’s what makes sports so great.
What the Penguins don’t defy is that this is a special group.
The next man up, strength in numbers, whatever you want to label them, this group just has a championship mystique and mentality about them.
They always think they can win and will do whatever it takes to win, a total contrast from Penguin teams in the Sidney Crosby era, pre-Mike Sullivan.
Tonight was another great example:
24 blocked shots and they again put their bodies in shooting lanes to defend the high danger areas in allowing just 9 high danger chances at even strength.
“I loved our willingness to pay the price to defend the right way,” Mike Sullivan said afterwards of his hockey club.
The Penguins got individual performances from players who elevated their games in certain areas that they normally don’t do, something the team is getting on a nightly basis this post season.
Olli Maatta for one, he looked like Paul Coffey with a beautiful pass in splitting two defenders to send Patric Hornqvist off for a breakaway goal. The first half of the game he looked like a Norris Trophy winner at both ends.
Evgeni Malkin won 13 of 17 faceoffs, how often does that really happen?
Ian Cole transformed into Ulf Samuelsson tonight in bringing a nasty physical game, he was trucking players left and right.
Yes, the Penguins are really skilled and talented, but they continue to amaze into what they’ve transformed into since the latter part of last season, in how every player that puts on the sweater is committed to doing whatever it takes to win.
It’s a big reason why the Penguins are defying everything from the models and to even the eye test right now.
As for the Washington Capitals, they might be unlucky with the Penguins stealing Games 1 and now Game 4, but that’s what playoff hockey is about, other teams steal games all the time and at somepoint you have to look into the mirror.
Six offensive zone penalties and 0/4 on the power play tonight.
“Our top guys tonight, I thought weren’t as good as they needed to be tonight, which was very unfortunate for us,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said in taking a shot at his top players.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was very good again tonight but the likes of Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie were invisible.
The Penguins have done a great job as the series has progressed in neutralizing Ovechkin as Pittsburgh’s speed on the backcheck has slowed him up in attempting to get his shot off with speed down the left side.
‘Drive and will’ carried the Penguins to tonight’s win and as vulnerable as the Penguins may look just from the on-ice product they’ve displayed, ‘drive and will’ is still missing from the Capitals and it’s among the reasons they have such an uphill climb in beating the Penguins three straight.
It’s a question Capital players were again forced to answer after tonight’s loss.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"