Game 5: Capitals put the Penguins on the brink of elimination

Mike Sullivan “really liked” the Penguins game Saturday night.

He even felt it might have been the Penguins best game of the series.

“There was a whole lot of this game that we really liked,” said Sullivan. “It might have been our best game of the series.”

Unfortunately for the Penguins, two great periods don’t win you a sixty minute game.

The Capitals scored four goals in the third period, including two empty-netters, to rally past the Penguins for a 6-3 win in Game 5 to put the Penguins on the brink of elimination.

This was an extremely frustrating loss for the Penguins because of how they significantly carried the play through the first two periods.

Pittsburgh had their most productive game from the Derick Brassard line all series, the line producing the opening goal of the game, a Jamie Oleksiak goal from the point with the line showing excellent work down low on the goal and Conor Sheary providing a screen.

It was a rare impact night from a bottom-6 line this postseason, with Brassard at 80% possession (21/5) in the loss and the line as a whole above 70%. They were strong in developing zone-time.

Along with actually getting something from the Brassard line, Pittsburgh had a massive 24-7 edge in high danger chances (all-situations) in the game and a great night on the power play in getting two power play goals from Patric Hornqvist, Sidney Crosby.

It was quite the recipe to deliver a Game 5 win and put the Capitals on the brink of elimination.

Instead the Penguins are now in a situation where they have blown two-third period leads twice through the first five games of the series, a problematic area that makes a series awfully tough to win between two evenly matched teams.

— As all of the fuss late in the regular season from the fan base and media was about the Penguins missing Ian Cole, a potential problem area for the Penguins heading into the postseason was Kris Letang playing all season at a NO. 3/No. 4 defenseman type level than who the Penguins No.6 defenseman was actually being.

With how much Letang plays, his wildly inconsistent play should have been a bigger worry than anything.

This series that has really been highlighted and none more than the third period of Game 5 where Letang was out to lunch on the Kuznetsov and Vrana goals.

It’s nothing physical with Letang that looks wrong, it’s the mental part of his game that continues to be maddening.

Letang is constantly showing an inability to stay in his lane defensively. It haunted the Penguins on both goals and it wasn’t just a one period thing. It is happening on a consistent basis, which just can’t be the case for a so called No. 1 defenseman.

Brian Dumoulin can only cover so much these days.

If the Penguins get eliminated this series, Letang will surely be among the contentious discussions the organization plans to have moving forward.

Letang’s days as being viewed as an untouchable player are over in the organization, as evidenced by Jim Rutherford reaching out to General Managers in To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

— The Tom Wilson suspension was strongly felt for the Capitals in the first two period with Smith-Pelly trying to play the role of a first-line winger.

That had to be hard to watch for Capitals fans.

Moving Jakub Vrana to the Ovechkin line in the third period brought a needed skill element to the lineup and instant results with Vrana scoring the game winning goal and finishing with a goal, 2 assists.

The Capitals found something there.

— While the Penguins got an impact night from Brassard line, which was a pleasant surprise, the Crosby line had their first dud of the series.

Jake Guentzel was a rare non-factor for the first time all series, he was certainly due for an off-game, Sidney Crosby was surprisingly at 25% in possession (7/21).

And then there’s Dominik Simon who took an ill-timed offensive zone penalty in the second period that changed the momentum of the game.

The good thing for Crosby/Guentzel, this was more likely a one game thing than a sign of things to come for the rest of the series.

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