With their season on the line, the Washington Capitals received huge performances from their stars in a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Alex Ovechkin was an absolute beast in this contest with a goal and an assist, T.J. Oshie had the same, and Braden Holtby made 30 saves to force a game 6 at the Consol Energy Center on Tuesday at 8 pm.
Wow, what a hockey game!
Both teams left it all on the ice in this one and it was the battle of superb forechecks for the first 40 minutes. After a great start by the Caps, the Penguins put on a clinic with their 1-2-2 pressure forcing Washington into poor puck management and turnovers throughout the later half of the opening stanza. The shots on net were 12-4 for the Pens after 20 minutes, but shot attempts were 25-21 for Pittsburgh since the Capitals missed the net 10 times.
In the middle frame, the Caps did a better job of breaking out by swarming the puck and using the high glass or lob over the Penguins defense. That forced Pittsburgh to do more retreating and allowed the Capitals to carry the play. Washington out shot attempted the black and gold, 26-19, and took a 2-1 lead on Oshie’s rebound of another strong Ovechkin shot. Justin Williams then pounced on a Pens turnover and beat Matt Murray five hole to give the Caps their 1st two goal cushion of this series. The lead could’ve been extended more, but the Caps missed the net 12 additional times, including some great chances for Jason Chimera and Nicklas Backstrom.
In the third period the Capitals played smart using a 1-3-1 type of setup in the neutral zone and, as a result, Pittsburgh had to dump the puck in way more than they wanted. The Caps continued to swarm the loose biscuit and that helped them win a lot of the battles against a speedier team.
Pittsburgh didn’t have many quality chances in that last frame as the Caps played with desperation.
Desperation is what the Caps will continue to feel, because a Penguins victory on Tuesday closes this series out.
Pittsburgh got Kris Letang (30:11 of ice time) back after a one game suspension and his play stepping up in the neutral zone was a big factor early.
The Caps, however, will get Brooks Orpik back on Tuesday after his three game suspension. His veteran leadership and presence should help stabilize a Washington back end that has made too many big mistakes in this series.
On Saturday night though, the Caps defensemen were very solid and the only goal allowed by Washington was while they were shorthanded.
The Capitals received stellar goaltending from the Holtbeast, including back to back huge stops on Patrick Hornqvist (pad save) and Justin Schultz (glove save) late in period two. #70 was dialed in, like his teammates, and they’ll need to be in game six.
Pittsburgh still is in the driver’s seat in this series since the Caps have no margin for error. However, coming into game five, Pittsburgh was 8-0 lifetime against Washington in previous such occasions.
Washington will need to bring their best game if they want to have a chance at extending the series, once again.
Desperation, that’s what every Capitals player has to bring to every battle on every shift on Tuesday night.
Notes: Matt Niskanen led the Caps in ice time with 27:28. He was outstanding, along with Karl Alzner (25:02). John Carlson had an assist in 24:50. He was dominant, as well…final shot attempts were 69-58 for the Penguins, but that was due to 3rd period score effects…Tom Wilson only played 7:20, but he drew a key slashing penalty on Ian Cole that led to Oshie’s PPG. Willy also was super on the PK and late in regulation. The Caps were 2 for 5 with the man advantage while the Penguins went 1 for 2.