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Insider Only Penguins – Capitals Fallout: It’s only February but Pens put another seed of doubt into the Capitals’ head

Penguins 7 – Capitals 4

Evgeni Malkin | 2 Goals (28), 2 Assists, 5 SOG
Phil Kessel | 2 Goals (23), 1 Assist, 4 SOG
Sidney Crosby | 2 Assists, 4 SOG
Jake Guentzel | 2 Assists, 4 SOG
Riley Sheahan | 2 Assists, 2 SOG

Penguins – Capitals never disappoint and tonight was no different in a thrilling Penguins 7-4 win at the PPG Paints Arena.

The star power was certainly on display in this game but mostly from the Penguins end.

Alex Ovechkin had a big night with 2 goals and 1 assist, scoring goals 32 and 33 on the season, but once again Ovechkin’s Capitals would be trumped by Pittsburgh’s trio of stars.

Sidney Crosby extended his points streak to 11 games with a 2 assist night, while Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel stole the show.

Malkin who along with Kessel has to be creeping into the MVP discussion, scored two – 3rd period goals and added two assists for a four point night.

Phil Kessel, meanwhile, was huge again for the Penguins. He opened the scoring, 2:11 into the first period, and brought the house down in the third period with a snipe from the right face-off dot to put the Penguins ahead 6-4.

Kessel’s 2 goals and 1 assist tonight moves him to second in the NHL with 62 points.

Crosby, Malkin and Kessel combined for 4 goals, 5 assists and 13 shots on goal in the win as Malkin had five shots, while Kessel and Crosby each had four apiece.

Washington was trailing the game from the get-go and kept fighting back until in a 4-4 game the Penguins blew the game open with 3 goals in a 3:52 span in the third period by turning a tied game into a 7-4 Penguins lead.

Pittsburgh outscored Washington 4-1 in the third period.

This was just one regular season game but things are reaching the point where the Capitals management group has to be sitting back and thinking that this Capitals team isn’t good enough to beat the Penguins.

It’s tick-tock as the trade deadline is 24 days away.

The last two seasons Washington had a good enough roster to dethrone the Penguins. Mentally the Penguins were just stronger and got better goaltending that tilted each series along with the Penguins having a core of high-tier talent that shows up on a much more consistent basis.

Aside from Alex Ovechkin who still to this day doesn’t get enough credit for how special of a player he is, you never know what Washington is going to get from Backstrom, Kuznetsov and even Holtby when they meet the Penguins.

With the Capitals roster much weaker from last season, right now the standings might not say it, but the Penguins are a far better hockey club and Washington is not built to play the type of skill/speed game Pittsburgh possesses and the same would go for matching up with Tampa Bay or Boston, the two other top contenders in the East.

And things have reached the point where the Capitals have a Braden Holtby problem when he faces the Penguins.

Pittsburgh lit up Holtby tonight for 6 goals on 33 shots, chasing him from action. The Penguins outshot Washington 39-33 in the win.

Tonight just showed again how the Penguins bring out the worst in the Capitals with mindboggling mental mistakes.

There wasn’t a better example of that than the Carl Hagelin goal.

We’ve seen that goal a number of times in how Washington just puts things on a platter for the Penguins.

Even the Kessel opening goal where no one including a very good defenseman in Matt Niskanen picks up Kessel at the left post and Holtby doesn’t block a Riley Sheahan cross-ice pass through the crease which should have been routine.

Uncharacteristic mistakes from good hockey players always happen from the Capitals end when they play Pittsburgh.

Then you have the Capitals in the third period of a tied game, putting the Penguins on the power play twice in a 4:15 span on stick penalties that result in power play goals from Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin.

In the NBA, good or bad (mostly bad this season) everything the Cleveland Cavaliers do from a personnel standpoint is about the Golden State Warriors. With the way the NHL playoff alignment works, everything the Capitals do has to be about beating the Penguins.

It’s reached that point and as difficult it is to drastically change your roster, Washington has to start looking at the coach to change something for when things two teams likely meet again in Round 2.

Right now as these rosters stand and the coaching staff’s in place, Washington is not beating Pittsburgh four times.

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Carter Rowney | 2 CF – 5 CA – 29 CF%
Ian Cole | 10 CF – 20 CA – 33 CF%
Riley Sheahan | 11 CF – 18 CA – 37 CF%
Jamie Oleksiak | 12 CF – 19 CA – 39 CF%
Carl Hagelin | 7 CF – 11 CA – 39 CF%

Scoring Summary

1st Period

PIT 2:11 Phil Kessel (22)
Assists: Jake Guentzel, Riley Sheahan

PIT 15:50 Carl Hagelin (5)

WSH 18:10 Alex Ovechkin (31)
Assist: Christian Djoos

2nd Period

PIT 0:26 Patric Hornqvist (16, PPG)
Assists: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby

WSH 3:08 Dmitry Orlov (7)
Assists: Lars Eller, Matt Niskanen

WSH 11:57 Evgeny Kuznetsov (14)
Assists: Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

3rd Period
PIT 1:01 Evgeni Malkin (27)
Assists: Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta

WSH 1:50 Alex Ovechkin (32)
Assists: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov

PIT 6:08 Bryan Rust (7, PPG)
Assists: Riley Sheahan, Kris Letang

PIT 7:59 Phil Kessel (23)
Assists: Carl Hagelin, Evgeni Malkin

PIT 10:00 Evgeni Malkin (28, PPG)
Assists: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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