PENGUINS – CAPITALS X’ & O’S
The Washington Capitals opened the game buzzing, owning the territorial edge and giving the Penguins fits on the forecheck with hard dump-ins that Marc Andre Fleury struggled to control. It looked like a re-run of the second and third periods of the previous matchup between the two clubs.
Pittsburgh didn’t record their first shot until 6:41 into the game but again the Penguins came out of a poor start with the game 0-0.
Where this game quickly turned for Pittsburgh was in a similar manner the Penguins have been able to exploit the Capitals in the previous two meetings. When the Capitals get out of their structure, Pittsburgh can make Washington pay in a way some teams can’t and Sunday night was no different.
On Bryan Rust’s opening goal of the game, Washington gets three skaters caught deep in the offensive zone and Pittsburgh is off with a 4-on-3 rush that has Ian Cole making a great play at the blueline with Mike Weber stepping up and an even better individual play from Tom Kuhnhackl who shields his body, turns and sets up a streaking Bryan Rust who finishes the play off.
The Penguins were often so good under Dan Bylsma in their ability to not just score a momentum changing goal but to get another one quickly. This team has that important trait about them again.
A 1:59 later, Trevor Daley gives the Penguins a 2-0 lead just 9:59 into the first period. Just like that Pittsburgh took complete control of the game.
Sidney Crosby’s dominance on the forecheck led to the Daley goal.
Crosby takes an excellent angle in forcing the lefty Dmitry Orlov to his backhand [hide], leading to a turnover and the Capitals got caught this time with four players high, one forward out of the zone, three above the circles with Brooks Orpik the lone defender in proper position but Orpik over-pursues to Crosby’s side who finds a streaking Daley who gets behind the Capitals for the goal.
THE PENGUINS SUPERIOR RESPONSE TO THE CAPITALS RESPONSE
The Capitals, as expected, had a response in the second period.
Jason Chimera got the Capitals within one goal just minutes into the second period with a soccer like goal.
Andre Burakovsky then tied the game at 2-2 with 4:48 left in the second as the Penguins had a blown coverage in not accounting for Burakovsky coming out of the box.
The Capitals during the period also ratcheted up the physicality and after the whistle stuff.
Suddenly this one had the feel of the game potentially swaying to the Capitals especially when you account the Penguins were playing in a back-to-back situation.
Yet, most importantly the Penguins were still dictating the style and pace of the game and were continuing to give the Capitals fits with their pressure on the forecheck.
42 seconds after the Burakovsky goal, Tom Kuhnhackl regained the lead for the Penguins with his third of the season at 15:54 of the period, finishing a beautiful feed from Matt Cullen. Again Pittsburgh created an offensive turnover with Kuhnhackl providing excellent back pressure on Nate Schimdt, leading to the goal.
The Capitals were sloppy all game with their defensive zone structure but some had to do with the Penguins attacking style. The pressure and angles the Penguins take is a product of not just being the faster team but a well coached team.
Pittsburgh got behind the Capitals all game with Matt Cullen’s breakaway goal 3:46 into the third period being the dagger in putting the Penguins up 4-2.
A 6-2 win for the Penguins where they dictated the style of game, neutralized the Capitals stars, got dominant games from role players Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Bryan Rust, while improving to 33-0 when leading after the second period. This performance better start getting the attention of others in the East.[/hide]