Capitals 6 – Pittsburgh 3
The Washington Capitals talked before the game that they had a chip on their shoulder from what happened in Game 7, and they played liked it as Alexander Ovechkin scored twice and the Capitals scored the final 4 goals of the game, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 Thursday night at Mellon Arena.
The Capitals were a motivated group and have won five straight and 8 of 9 games to improve their record to 32-12-6 on the season.
The importance of special teams was at the forefront tonight. The Capitals were 2-for-2 on the power play, getting a late 2nd period power play goal from Alex Ovechkin (32) and Nicklas Backstrom (21) put the Capitals up 5-3 at 3:25 of the 3rd period, for the Caps 2nd power play goal of the game.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was 0-for-4 on the power play. “Special teams was decisive in the game, ” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We lost the special teams battle and we ended up on the wrong side of the score sheet.”
Down 5-3 early in the 3rd, Pittsburgh was never able to get back into the game.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, ” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “I don’t think we played a bad third. They were just a little bit better.”
For Pittsburgh it was a game of two halves. The Penguins played well for much of the first 30 minutes of the game but for the 3rd straight game, struggled to keep the puck out of their net.
In the past three games, Pittsburgh has given up 16 goals.
Pittsburgh got to Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore early, scoring just 4:22 into the game as Theodore misplayed the puck off the boards and Crosby poked it in to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Trailing 2-1 early in the 2nd period, Nick Johnson (1) scored his first career NHL goal at 2:50 of the period to tie the game at 2-2.
Pittsburgh began to build momentum and Kris Letang (3) scored mid-way through the 2nd period to put the Penguins up 3-2 but Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals took over from there, scoring four unanswered goals en route to their fifth straight victory.
Theodore rebounded from a shaky start, making 35 saves to record his 15th win of the season.
Pittsburgh did not get a strong performance from goaltender Brent Johnson who made 28 saves in the game. Johnson made his second straight start as Marc Andre Fleury remains sidelined with a fractured finger.
In a game that had a playoff vibe and was covered liked one, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin continue to rise to the occasion when they play each other.
“It had the feeling of a playoff game, and that obviously happens with the matchup we have with Sid and Ovechkin,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “The intensity was definitely there.”
In their 23 career meetings, Crosby has 17 goals and 23 assists and Ovechkin has 18 goals and 17 assists. Crosby has 17 goals and 23 assists and Ovechkin has 18 goals and 17 assists.
Tonight Crosby had a goal and a team high 6 shots, while Ovechkin had 2 goals and an assist.
Just how good are the Capitals in the face-off circle? Penguins center Sidney Crosby was 10-for-30 on draws.
Much of the talk for Pittsburgh after the game was about Nick Johnson who scored his 1st NHL goal in his 1st game.
Johnson played well in his season debut, creating offensive chances and finding the soft spots in the slot on Evgeni Malkin’s line. Johnson had 9:21 of ice time with a goal and 3 shots on goal.
Meanwhile, Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko each had 3 assists. Malkin has 7 points in his last 3 games, while Fedotenko’s 3 assist night ties a career high.
The Penguins (31-20-1) will return to action Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Penguins forwards Max Talbot (foot) and Pascal Dupuis (facial injury) did not play and were replaced in the lineup by Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson. Talbot was limited prior to the Penguins morning skate and is day-to-day.
*Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury missed his third straight game with a fractured finger.
*Capitals defenseman Mike Green, the top scoring defensemen in the league with 50 points, did not play due to an undisclosed injury.
*Penguins fans donated $17,309 for Haiti earthquake relief and the team matched that amount.
*Penguins forward Eric Godard had under two minutes of ice time for the second straight game. Godard saw the ice for one shift.
*Penguins defenseman Martin Skoula was a healthy scratch for the seventh straight game.