The Washington Capitals (31-17-10,72 pts) moved within one point of the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-16-9,73 pts) with a 3-1 win over the Penguins on Tuesday night. The log jam in the Metropolitan Division has five points separating first and fourth place in the division.
Washington improved to 3-0 on the season vs Pittsburgh and have outscored the Penguins 10-1 in those three meetings.
A Joel Ward (13) 5-on-3 power play goal with 4:13 left in regulation broke a 1-1 tie for the eventual game winning goal. John Carlson (8) added an empty net goal with 12 seconds left.
Alexander Ovechkin (37) also scored for Washington, a breakaway goal in the first period. Steve Downie (10) was the lone goal scorer for Pittsburgh.
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Just like Sunday afternoon vs Chicago Blackhawks, the Penguins played well again in a low scoring game tonight, shots were even at 33-33, 23-22 Capitals 5 v 5, and some could argue it was a 50-50 game.
The red flag, though, out of tonight’s game is the Capitals were again able to dictate the style of play, just like the previous two meetings between the two rivals.
There were no long sequences in the game where the Penguins were able to push the pace, dominate possession and get the Capitals out of their 1-1-3 neutral zone trap or running around in the defensive zone.
The Capitals being 3-0 vs the Penguins this season doesn’t really matter, it’s how they’ve been able to dictate how the games going to be played vs Pittsburgh and they’ve been able to do it three times in a row in their favor.
There’s starting to become enough of a sampling here where it’s clear the Penguins are going to have some real issues in a seven game series vs Washington.
The Capitals were coming off a three game West Coast swing where they played Sunday night in Anaheim and the Penguins still weren’t able to get the Capitals off their game from a system standpoint. That was more telling than anything tonight.
— This surely won’t be popular but I believe Alexander Ovechkin was going for the puck when he delivered what ended up being a wicked slash to Kris Letang’s right foot and sent Letang tumbling to the ice and into the boards. Mike Johnston was furious and the Penguins were right to immediately stick up for Letang but if Johnston wanted to send a message and truly believed it was deliberate, he the missed an opportunity immediately after the slash when there was an icing call that kept Ovechkin on the ice.
The chance was there to throw the 4th line on the ice and stir up some trouble. Instead the coaching staff put Evgeni Malkin’s line on the ice for the draw against the Ovechkin line and than took the Malkin line off seconds later at the next stoppage. The Penguins felt they had to respond and there was no doubt the first time Max Lapierre and Steve Downie get on the ice they were going to try to mix things up, which happened about the Fehr line, but the chance was there to get Downie, Lapierre out, make their point on the faceoff against the Ovechkin line and move on. Instead the Penguins never truly moved on and played with too much emotion the rest of the way.
— Speaking of Ovechkin, he could be making a surge at a fourth Hart Trophy. Ovechkin and Rick Nash deserve to be getting more buzz than they are.
— Some inside the game say Steve Downie will lose a playoff game for the Penguins at some point. His punch to the face of Jack Hillen in a 1-1 game, several minutes after the Ovechkin/Letang incident, is a perfect example of why it’s likely going to happen.
— The Penguins special team woes continued going 0-3 on the power play and failing to score with the man advantage for 2:00 of the final 2:07 in the third period. During the late power play in regulation that could have tied the game to force overtime, Pittsburgh managed just one shot and had three shot attempts. Shot volume is a huge problem.
Meanwhile, the Penguins gave up another two power play goals and are under 75% on the penalty kill over the last month. However, hard to complain about the 5-on-3 goal other than Kris Letang being undisciplined in slashing Marcus Johansson.
The Ovechkin breakaway goal was just a complete blunder by Kris Letang who was thinking offense while on the penalty kill and was heading up ice when the Penguins didn’t have possession after Beau Bennett failed to get the puck deep.
— Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, David Perron, and Patric Hornqvist were pointless and combined for just four even strength shots in the loss.
Sidney Crosby, 2 shots on goal (0 shots at strength)
Evgeni Malkin, 3 Shots on goal, (1 shot at even strength)
David Perron, 3 shots on goal, (2 shots at even strength)
Patric Hornqvist, 1 shot on goal (1 shot at even strength)