Penguins Steal Game 1

“To steal a game in their rink and kind of effectively get home ice back in the series, I think that’s huge.” — Penguins center Nick Bonino

The Pittsburgh Penguins escaped Game 1 with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals despite all the numbers saying this should have been a blow out in Washington’s favor.

The eye test also says this was a bad performance by the Penguins, outside of a few players.

Washington out-attempted Pittsburgh 83-41, was +21 in scoring chances, +14 in shots (35-21) +6 in high danger chances (13-7) and carried the play for significant portions over the final two periods.

Yet, the Penguins did what the Penguins do in putting one more puck in the back of the net than the opposition.

Timely goals and goaltending propelled the Penguins to a 1-0 series lead. It’s a recipe the Penguins will have to continue to rely on and the scary thing for Washington is if Marc Andre Fleury continues to play well above his head and career numbers, the high-end talent the Penguins boast only needs a couple golden opportunities to bury you like what played out in Game 1.

Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals had a lot of things play out for them in Game 1 (if they continue) that should put them in great position to get past the Penguins in Round 2.

The last two periods, Ovechkin was a force, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a major problem for the Penguins defensively, the Capitals third line carried play, and Washington gave the Penguins trouble in transition through the neutral zone as Washington’s D was very effective in spacing the Penguins out with long passes that led to quick offense the other way.

Washington dominated possession, 73-32 in 5 vs 5 play and out-attempted the Penguins 56-20 over the final two periods. But, the Penguins would out-score Washington 3-2 during that span.

In the third period, the Capitals had the Penguins on the ropes and only to be burned by an Ian Cole stretch pass to Scott Wilson who found a streaking Nick Bonino for a breakaway and game winning goal. The goal was Bonino’s first shot/attempt in the game as the Penguins third line up to that point was getting worked all game.

This was a typical Penguins – Capitals playoff game where Pittsburgh just finds a way to win it and Washington despite all the great things they did in Game 1, are now chasing the series.

Last year in Round 2, the Capitals lost Game 3 to fall down 2-1 in the series when they fired 49 shots on Matt Murray and had 85 shot attempts. They’ve now lost two playoff games vs the Penguins in consecutive seasons where they had over 80 shot attempts with a +40 differential.

Among the keys from the Penguins stealing Game 1:

Level Play in the first period: Poor starts plagued the Penguins in the Columbus series and Pittsburgh came out with a workman like performance in period one. They gave Washington little time and space in period one and the Capitals went over eight minutes without a shot during a stretch. This put Pittsburgh in position to jump out to a lead which they did seconds into the second period.

29 Blocked Shots: Washington fired 83 shot attempts, yet, only got 35 on net and were limited to just 13 high danger chances in the game. Pittsburgh was again great at blocking shooting lanes, with 29 blocked shots, none better than Jake Guentzel’s save in the first period in what should have been a goal for T.J. Oshie. The bounces keep going the Penguins way as this team continues to play with fire.

Sidney Crosby: What makes the Penguins so dangerous is what played out last night where Sidney Crosby took over the game with just two shifts, scoring twice in a 52 second span.

Goaltending: Braden Holtby gave up 3 goals on 21 shots and he has Sergei Bobrovsky ‘itis’ when he plays the Penguins. Holtby took the blame on Pittsburgh’s first and third goals, calling it the “difference in the game” and said it won’t happen next time. If it does, Washington will be down 0-2.

No Penalties: Somehow, someway, the Penguins never put the Capitals on the man advantage despite the Capitals having the puck in their end for most of the night. “No [hide] penalties against their side,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Shit happens.”

Final Takeaway from Game 1

— The Penguins continue to play with fire and are still winning –[/hide]