That’s what it took to gut this one out.
Big ol’ meaty clackers. Forged from your hard metal of choice. I’m talking about the type of stones you can’t buy at Kay Jewelers. The kind of sac fillers that you only see on National Geographic or in medical journals.
Remember the whole Dicks Out For Harambe movement? Remember Harambe? Well, last night was all about Balls Out For Sidney.
It took everything the Pens had and then some. It took everyone banding together to do what was necessary to take a 3-1 series lead. And leading the cavalry, balls in tow, with another stellar goaltending performance was once again Marc-Andre Fleury.
There’s still a shitload of work left to do and this series is far from over. The Pens are still going to be without Letang, Crosby, and Sheary. The Caps are certainly very far from out of it, but taking Game 4 was a huge leap in the right direction. It’s going to take another balls-out effort to take Game 5 in Washington.
Pens were forced to make some lineup changes. Duh. Rowney and Wilson were the obvious choices to come back in to replace Concussed Crosby and Concussed Conor. Other lineup changes included a change to Fleury’s mask and Eddie Olczyk: Cute Without the E (Cut From the Broadcast Team).
Notable things left unchanged were Pierre McGuire’s inability to not be a total fucking creep show and the NBCSN leading graphic.
For what felt like the first time in a month, the Penguins actually got off to a strong start. They had the pace of the game working in their favor and they weren’t a total disaster in their own zone, leading to them striking first just 4:39 into the game.Strong opening to the game, coming from the Dad and the Swedes line, the next new sitcom coming to you this spring from NBC.
All started from a huge backcheck from Hagelin to set Daley up for the breakout to Maatta, but it was the 6-to-midnight inducing little pass from Maatta to hit Hornqvist splitting the Liability Line of Alzner and Orpik to go one-on-one with Holtby. Shelf city. 1-0
Hornqvist popped back up a few minutes later, finding himself in some pain and discomfort from blocking an Orpik wrister off his knee. Dude just doesn’t know how to turn it off. What a warrior.
As 72 struggled to get to the bench, the whistle blew as Ovi got rung up for interfering with Guentzel. Still, missing Crosby was obvious on the peep. No dice.
As the Caps started to settle into the game, the MAF Show opened up to a full crowd with 29 making a yuge stop on Tom from MySpace with just before Eller went off for holding the stick to give the Pens their second (killed) PP of the night.
The Caps assault raged on after killing off the second minor. Speaking of things raging, a big flurry of saves from Flower late in the period had everyone feeling it in their bone, singular.
Pens had to kill off a Dumoulin hooking penalty split across the intermission. Once killed, it was back to work. This time, it took the Penguins just under 4 minutes into the period to notch another goal. In just his 9th career NHL playoff game, Jake Grendel got his 8th career NHL playoff goal, getting a fortuitous bounce off Orlov. 2-0
What a play by Maatta in the neutral zone to not only free the puck up while surrounded by Caps players, but wriggle free in possession and still have the wherewithal to spring Guentzel.
But 3:30 later, it was ball shrinking time as Kuznetsov pulled it right back 3:30 later after a series of rough Pens turnovers. Williams and Johansson just working the Pens in the corner to free up the puck for the little rat jumping off the bench to rip it home. 2-1
And just 1:12 later, we had a tie ball game. Once more, it came from a neutral zone turnover. This time coming from the stick of Dumoulin giving it right to Backstrom unforced. Pens were floundering and chasing the puck in their own zone and eventually Nate Schmidt cashed in for his first career playoff goal. 2-2
Unfortunately for the Caps and their momentum, John Carlson can’t help but be a loser, taking a roughing penalty just 2 minutes later.Pens to the powerplay about 2 minutes later. Shots were 10-2 Caps up until that point in the second. Everything was going their way. If there was a time the Pens needed to score for the momentum to swing back in their favor, it was this powerplay. Off a faceoff, they were able to get set up for 71 to put one on a platter for a Schultz bomb so heavy that President 45 wished he could drop it on Afghanistan. 3-2
Two goals on 4 total shots for the Pens in the 2nd. They call that efficiency, boys and girls.
With 6:24 to play, Ian Cole helped gift-wrap a chance for the Caps to tie things back up heading into the third by closing his hand on the puck. Wilson got himself a penalty after the whistle getting mugged for trying to knee Kunitz straight to hell. Both Kunitz and Wilson got roughing penalties out of it all. They were able to kill off the Cole minor and get the juices flowing to close out the period, nearly making it 4-2 with 3 to play. Had no idea Phil had hits in his repertoire, but he was in rampage mode all damn night. What a save from Holtby.
Then it was the sum of all fears a minute later. Cullen is probably the Pens best penalty killing forward and he’d find himself in the box for 4 minutes after clipping Williams with a high stick.
Pens got through the first 2 minutes to close out the middle frame, but were still faced with a full two minutes of the penalty to kill off with a fresh sheet of ice. But 41 one seconds into the period, Ovi negated the rest of the PP for slashing Rust. A goal would’ve been the perfect medicine, but it wasn’t in the cards.
For a few minutes in the third, the Pens weren’t just sitting back, holding it down for the underground and trying to see the game out. There were, in fact, literal tons of up and down action instead. Kuhnhackl made some obscene play to deny Williams from equalizing into a yawning 4×6 before Maatta and Wilson got matching minors 7 minutes in for interference and holding respectively. Somewhere late for about the 82349th time in this game alone, Fleury went vintage Fleury to rob Eller.
And that;s about when the Pens went into prevent defense. The last 8 or so minutes, it was all about sitting back, defending, and flipping pucks out as much as possible. Guentzel had a chance to finish it off on a spectacular feed from Rowney, but hit the pipe on one of the 2 shot attempts the Pens had in the last 8+ minutes.
With just under 2 minutes to play, The Neckless Horseman got Holtby out of the net for the extra skater, but as he was on his way, Oshie got his stick up high on Bonino to get locked in his cage.
Did Bones sell a parakeet to a blind kid? No, but he sold the hell out of that “hockey play.” Caps fans reacted as you’d expect, as if their players have never embellished a high stick in the last year or cross-checked the best player on the planet in the fucking skull.
Many of them also claimed that this call was the reason they lost the game, failing to acknowledge the fact that they got Holtby out of the net shortly thereafter to make it 5v5 once again, a game state in which the Caps dominated the Penguins. Storm. Weathered.
- What a performance once again from Fleury. Can’t say it enough.
- Pens now 6-0 when scoring first in the postseason this year.
- Best game Maatta played since his rookie year.
- Ian Cole was brilliant. Six hits, 3 blocks, and still was just under 50% in shot attempt differential at even strength despite the Caps doubling up the Pens again in that category. Oh, and he put Justin Williams in a damn retirement home.
- Once again, the Pens at 5v5 kept the Caps attempts along the perimeter. Peng didn’t have a lot of looks (28), but had a large cluster of attempts in the high danger areas. Quality over quantity at this point.
Game 5 Saturday. Bury them. Go Pens.