Capitals take 2-1 Series Lead
Off an Olli Maatta offensive zone turnover, Alex Ovechkin capitalized on a 2-on-1 with 1:07 remaining in regulation to deliver a 4-3 Capitals win in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead.
Pittsburgh’s comeback in Game 1 was more of the same with Washington collapsing in the third period, but the Capitals performance in Game 2 and out-scoring Pittsburgh 2-0 in the third period of Game 3 to go up 2-1 in the series, things are slowly moving in the direction that the Capitals may finally solve the Penguins this year.
Game 3 had a similar feel of Games 1 and 2, with each team having stretches of stronger play but for the most part it was a near 50-50 game.
Shots were even at 22-22, though, Pittsburgh had a 19-12 edge and 3-2 lead on the scoreboard after the second period.
Pittsburgh looked in control heading into the third but the Penguins offensive game came to a halt in period three in being limited to three shots in the final period.
“There are two good teams going at it right now and there wasn’t much room,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.. After two periods, there weren’t a lot of shots. … Both teams were battling and pushing. “This series is what it’s going to be. It’s going to be nose to nose, keep pushing for inches and working for inches. And it is a game of inches.”
A game of inches, Pittsburgh didn’t get great goaltending from Matt Murray who stopped 18 of 22 shots in the loss but the Penguins were haunted by two crushing turnovers that led to goals against, Jamie Oleksiak failing to clear the zone on his backhand that led to a Chandler Stephenson second period goal and then Olli Maatta with a soft pass to open space with the Penguins buzzing that led to the Ovechkin game winner.
For the first time that these two clubs have faced each other the last three postseasons, the Capitals have the Penguins chasing the series after three games. This is also just the second-time in the Penguins last 10 playoff series (since 2016 postseason) that Pittsburgh is chasing the series after three games.
Pittsburgh’s biggest strength over the Capitals the last two years was speed and scoring depth.
That has been nullified.
The Penguins are a one-line team as nobody is scoring except Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby or Patric Hornqvist.
Pittsburgh’s three goal scorers in Game 3 were nonetheless Guentzel, Crosby and Hornqvist.
Where’s Phil Kessel?
He had Zach Aston-Reese and Riley Sheahan as his linemates, so that’s something to ponder, and what’s been problematic with Kessel is that he’s been strictly a perimeter player this series.
He’s not getting to the inside and had 1 shot on goal in Game 3 and has 4 shots on goal through three games.
This idea of playing Derick Brassard on the 4th line in Game 3 also didn’t pan out.
Getting Carl Hagelin back for Game 4 would be huge for the Penguins but at the deadline adding another top-9 winger was a need and not embracing Daniel Sprong as an option was a mistake for the Penguins as we’re seeing in this series where the Penguins have Dominik Simon on the second line due to the Hagelin injury.
As stated after Game 2, going to Rust-Brassard-Kessel needs to be an option.
“We’ll sit down as a coaching staff and see if we can put together some combination that might help, said Sullivan.”
If the Penguins win this series, we’re most likely going to be talking how the scoring depth finally broken through because the Capitals big boys are cancelling out the Penguins’.
— Derick Brassard’s lack of impact this series and Tom Wilson’s head hunting all series that resulted in a broken jaw for Zach Aston-Reese has brought Ryan Reaves back into the discussion.
Would anything be different with Reaves?
I still say no because Tom Wilson is who he is because the league allows it.
The Dumoulin and Aston-Reese hits most likely still happen with the presence of Reaves.
The combination of the Aston-Reese injury and the Penguins putting public pressure last night in not holding back has the league reaching the point of at lease holding a hearing. That’s a start.
League insiders call this one a 50-50 chance of a 1-2 game suspension, but the sense seems to be the league might finally be feeling too much pressure that they have to do something and slap Wilson with a minor suspension.
“We lose a guy to a broken jaw that’s going to require surgery and a concussion due to a high hit to the head,” said Sullivan. “We hope the league might do something.”