Because 7 ate Braden Holtby’s stat line last night.
In true Penguins/Capitals fashion, these two teams kicked off the Pens 18-19 season with a game that had a lot of bit of goals and a little bit of everything everything else.
Except any semblance of defense or a banner raising.
In a game that started off looking like the Pens were going to run all over the Caps before turning into a total mess of a first period where the Pens were lucky to escape alive (shot attempts at 5v5 were 17-10 Caps), the Pens were able to get to the first intermission down just a goal, despite scoring first.
What followed was the Pens going 49-29 in attempted shots at 5v5 (62.03%), gobbling 33 scoring chances (limiting the Caps to just 14), and going 19-4 in high danger chances, including giving up 0 in the 3rd period (stats provided by naturalstattrick.com).
In other words, the idea of control.
They did let the Caps hang around longer than they probably should have, but improved to 12-1-0 in their last 13 regular season games against the DC brigade where the Pens score first AND move to 32-10-2 all time at home under HCMS against Metro opposition.
And, most importantly, they kicked off the season with 2 points.
No surprises on either side. Caps went with the same team that beat the wheels off the Broons the night prior, while the Pens sent out the lines and pairings we all saw at the end of camp.
PIT – 1st Pd./1:49 – Oleksiak; A: Malkin, Phil! – 1-0
It didn’t take long for things to really get rolling in this one and it was the Pens getting on the scoresheet first, just 1:49 into the game.
Powered by Phil! and Hagelin combining to keep the puck and get the Caps running around, they worked a high cycle up top with Malkin and Jultz swirling. Gene coming from low to high, getting the Caps to pick themselves trying to chase him and Jultz swinging down towards the front of the net opened up the space for the Big Rig to overlap with 71. Hags, Jultz, and their respective defenders created enough traffic in front for Oleksiak to tee one up and rip it by Holtby fast enough to make Paul Walker go from 6 to midnight.
WSH – 1st Pd./3:30 – Vrana; A: Backstrom, Oshie – 1-1
Just under two minutes later, the Pens had a chance to double their lead after Crosby forced a Caps d-zone giveaway to Guentzel, slipping one back to 87 bearing down on Holtby on his own. He had him beat, but just didn’t wait that extra half second to drag it around Holtby’s toe and into the twine behind.
Too often in this sport, one big save at one end turns into a goal at the other end.
Spoiler alert: That shit happened here.
Off the ensuing draw, Washington was able to win it and eventually clear it to the neutral zone, despite Johnson pinching to the boards to nearly keep it in. With him out of the play temporarily and the puck taking a weird hop off Maatta’s stick after a nice read on the clearance, the Caps had the Pens on the ropes.
Oshie managed to corral it, pull Sheahan and Sprong over towards him, allowing Backstrom to walk straight down Fifth Ave. for a decent look. Johnson got a piece of it, but only so far as to put it off the super lively new PPG Paints Arena boards and straight to the stick of Jake Vrana for the gimme at the side of the cage.
Tough break for Murr here- you can see he’s set and down for Backstrom’s shot. The block was fine, but didn’t allow him reset himself after it came off the back wall.
WSH – 1st Pd./4:18 – Orpik; A: N/A – 2-1
Under a minute later, the Caps would take the lead for the first time in the game.
Following a Dumoulin-led rush in which he had a little support, his little dink pass to Malkin got broken up and sent the Caps the other way. Hags nearly forced a turnover at the blue line, but Carlson was able to get to it enough to push it into the neutral zone and send Ovi-Kuznetsov-Connolly on a 3v2 on Dumo-Letang. Their gap was good enough that Kuznetsov’s feed to Ovi wasn’t in his wheelhouse, allowing Letang to beat Ovi to the puck and bank it up the wall where both Phil! and Geno were lurking. Neither seemed ready to go north yet, though, and the attempt found no one except Brooks fucking Orpik stepping into one, beating Murr between the wickets.
No doubt, Murr would probably like to have this one back. He got a piece of it, but on second look, you can see Connolly and Dumoulin skate through his line of sight just prior to the shot being taken and while it was coming in. Tough one, but life happens.
PIT – 1st Pd./7:27 – PPG – Guentzel; A: Sprong, Jultz – 2-2
About 90 seconds later, though, the barnburner continued as Riskanen went to the box for interfering with Brassers. And, while it wasn’t the Pens top unit that found the equalizer, it was the second unit of Bake-Brassers-Sprong-Jultz-Johnson to get it done.
They too were able to have a lot of freedom and success working the puck around the perimeter with some movement inside. After a clearance, Jake was able to lug the puck and get into the zone, deferring to Brassard for the rim around the boards. Johnson made a nice pinch down the wall to keep the puck in and away from Walker, moving it to Sprong in the old James Neal cul-de-sac. Sprong nicely moved it up high to Jultz for he, Brassers, and Johnson to pass and weave up high, inevitably ending with a half-wall feed from Jultz to Sprong for a shot attempt. Sprong fanned on the shot, but Guentzel was posted up in the Crosby Zone to put it home and open his account for the year.
WSH – 1st Pd./8:00 – Ovechkin; A: Djoos, Kuznetsov – 3-2
Not to be outdone, the Caps were able to strike again 33 seconds later to retake the lead.
A makeshift line of Cullen-Sheahan-Rust got the mismatch of the Caps top line and were made to pay for it. Both Cullen and Sheahan, engaged in a wall battle with Connolly and Kuznetsov (and Carlson, holding the point to keep the puck from slipping out of the zone), weren’t able to win said battle. Kuznetsov picked it up, letting Ovi overlap and take Letang with him to open up the lane to Djoos as he took Rust out of the play with the pass. Djoos freely walked in, picked his head up and hit Ovi with a slap-pass for the redirect all alone in front. Just a defensive breakdown where everyone was left just watching.
Everything settled down after that, indicated by the fact that there weren’t 5 more goals on the next 7 shots of the hockey game.
PIT – 2nd Pd./0:30 – Letang; A: Crosby, Dumoulin – 3-3
By going 12 straight minutes without a goal to close out the 1st, it only meant that there absolutely had to be a goal in the first 30 seconds to open up the 2nd. That’s how these things work. The science supports this.
After a little bit of disjointed fuckery, Dumoulin retreated to settle everything down and actually break the puck out for what felt like the first time all game. It was with that breakout where Crosby did that disgusting thing where he takes a pass in his feet off of his skate, keeps his speed, and drives through the heart of the defense like a goddamn machete. He was probably unlucky not to score on both his wrister and rebound put-back, but Holtby was up to the task for the time being. Crosby collected his second rebound and hit Letang alone at the point for a free half-clapper through traffic to beat Holtby to get his first of what should be many this year. Best half-slapshot in the game do not @ me.
It’ll be said a lot this year as it has for every year he’s been alive and will be said every year until he retires, but 87 is fucking ridiculous and inhumane.
WSH – 2nd Pd./3:54 – Carlson; A: Connolly – 4-3
But just over 3 minutes later, the Caps were back with their noses in front.
Again, it came off some weird ass bounce that just didn’t go their way. Guentzel-Crosby-Hornqvist were sniffing around the net and 87 nearly put another one away, but ended up knocking the puck away from Hornqvist to Carlson for the attempted clear. Oleksiak jumped in on Connolly, but not enough to put Connolly off and keep the puck in the zone. Connolly basically smashed it off the glass, advancing it like 2 feet for Carlson to gather and take off on a 2v1 with Kuznetsov, looking him off and smoking a nasty wrister by Murr.
PIT – 2nd Pd./15:09 – Guentzel; A: Jultz, Crosby – 4-4
Not long later, Holtby was called to action again for what was probably the save of the game. Elite little sauce from Bake on the rush to find Sid, who returned the favor with a no-look, between the legs backhand pass that was just in Guentzel’s feet enough that he couldn’t get much on it other than to try to get it on net. He did, but Holtby’s toe was the difference between 4-4 and 4-3.
But like all good things, they have to die and with just over 5 minutes remaining, we had ourselves a tie ball game. Guentzel-Crosby-Hornqvist were once again the culprits, coming from some expert level forechecking from the Swedish monster. No clue why Holtby didn’t come out to play it, but it put Orlov in a bad position with 72 barreling down on it. Both 87 and 59 joined in, turning the puck over to Guentzel to fire one off Holtby’s back, which is actually not the goal. They kept working and kept the puck away from Washington, going up high, back down low, then up high again for Jultz to rip one and Bake to get the tip through Holtby.
PIT – 2nd Pd./16:58 – Brassard; A: Simon, Dumoulin – 5-4
The Caps were on their heels and about two minutes later, were behind on the scoreboard again. More on the Pens new look 3rd line later, but they were fucking menacing all game long and could not have been evidenced more than this goal.
It was your classic 200 foot goal.
Washington was able to get the puck down into the Pens zone, but Rust was the first man back to it, knocking it away from Kuznetsov to start the break. Simon looked like he had given the puck away in the neutral zone, only to work to get it back and move it into the offensive zone to grind this bitches down. His shot got blocked off, but Brassers and Rust were there to pick up the pieces, win the battle along the wall with some help from Dumo and get it to a supporting Simon at the point. Close quarters notwithstanding, he shot got through to Holtby, whose rebound control was somewhere between a chimp on acid and Ondrej Pavelec, and eventually landing on the stick on Brassers to get his nut.
PIT – 3rd Pd./2:45 – Malkin; A: Letang, Crosby – 6-4
That would see us out until the 3rd period, where the Penguanos weren’t done coming. Just 39 seconds into the final 20 minutes, Connolly found himself in the box for tripping up Rust in the neutral zone. Generally, that is both bad and not good.
Pens PP went to work, putting the Caps though the spin cycle. Phil! played the architect, working with The Tang up high until space opened up for him to find 87 below the goal line. Two Capitals chased Phil! and the other 2 collapsed towards Crosby, meaning Hornqvist, Letang, and Malkin were left to their own devices as Connolly was released from his cage. Sid, recognizing that all for Caps were below the faceoff dot on that side, one-touched a pass the opposite direction to Letang, whomst straight froze everyone with what looked like a one-timer that instead turned into an insane pass to Gene on Malkin Street for the actual 1T finish.
WSH – 3rd Pd./13:01 – Oshie; A: Oleksiak – 6-5
But with about 7 minutes to play and a 2 goal lead, the Pens reverted back to that old trend of shitting all over their own asses. In what should’ve been a simple dump collection and zone exit, Jultz moved the puck up to Malkin as the Caps forecheck began to take shape. Gene got a little lax with the puck, throwing a backhand pass in the direction of Phil!, who was not looking for it there. Instead, Oshie was, took the turnover and lasered one by Murr from the slot to pull the Caps temporarily within 1.
WSH – 3rd Pd./13:22 – Oshie; A: Carlson – 6-6
Only temporary because 21 seconds later, it was 6-6. Off the faceoff following the goal, Washington set up, took their time, and dumped the puck in behind Murr. Dumo and Letang went back for it with Letang acting as a barrier to keep Oshie from eviscerating Dumo, but it meant nothing as Dumo’s pass up the wall was met by Carlson and only Carlson.
John Carlson is not on the Penguins roster.
All he could do was throw it towards the net, where Oshie was looming with a high deflection that beat Murr, though was initially waved off for a high stick.
Not sure it gets much closer than that. Despite it being waved off on the ice, the refs changed their mind to rule it a goal on the ice. So when it went to review and they couldn’t find anything conclusive to overturn it, the goal stood. Weird sequence and Sully was pissed.
PIT – OT/1:20 – PPG – Letang; A: Malkin, Phil! – 7-6
With that goal, we were headed to OT, as both the new gods and old intended. Just 19 seconds into free hockey, Kuznetsov found himself locked up for hooking Crosby. On the 4v3, you can’t not back the absolute unit of Phil-Letang-Gene-Sid to do the deed. Malkin looked primed and ready to blast one through Holtby straight to the moon, but as the puck came to him, he faked the one-timer and returned the favor to Letang. With Crosby screening, The Tang’s shot saw it’s way through to put this one to bed.
DJ. SPIN THAT SHIT.
- Pens powerplay looks like it’s ready to pick up where it left off last season. Caps put them on the man-advantage six times and they made ’em pay for it twice. That’s good.
- In a game where defense was optional, Letang had himself a night. At 5v5, he was on the ice for 26 shot attempts for and just 18 against (59.09%), 18 scoring chances for and 11 against (62.07%), and a staggering 14 high danger chances for and just 3 against (82.35%). Oh, and 2 goals and an assist. Not a big deal.
- Obviously, Jack Johnson is going to be under the microscope. He made a couple nice pinches down the wall, but by and large he had a largely unnoticeable night. That’s not a bad thing. He was on the ice for 18 shot attempts for and 13 against (58.06%), 1 goal for and 1 against, 11-7 and 6-2 in scoring chances and high danger chances respectively in 17:22 of 5v5 ice time (21:58 total). He also had a chance late on on a breakaway chance to win it before OT:
- Miss me with your Murray slander.
- Not sure where the 4th line was last night aside from A) caved in and 2) stapled to the bench. Sprong saw a total of 6:47 of ice time with 2:22 coming on the PP. Cullen saw 9:43 (1:24 shorthanded) and Sheahan got 12:41 (2:25 shorthanded). At 5v5. Sprong was on the ice for 2 attempt for and 6 against, Sheahan for 9-17, and Cullen for 7-12. Sprong, in his limited exposure (which saw him start 75% of his shifts in the offensive zone), also was on the ice for just 1 scoring chance for and 4 against. Not a good look.
- On the flip side, this 3rd line is something. Dom Simon led the team in shot attempt share in just 9 minutes of 5v5 time at 78.95% (15 for, 4 against). Brassers’ 20-7 (74.07%) and Rust’s 24-11 (68.57%) were right behind him, followed by ~65% for the Guentzel-Crosby-Hornqvist unit. That’s good company. The created a ton of scoring chances, didn’t give up a lot (Simon and Brassard were on the ice for 0 high danger chances, Rust was on for 1). Individually, Rust himself had 8 shot attempts, 8 scoring chances, and 4 high danger chances. Brassard had 6, 5, and 4 respectively himself. Brassard’s 6 shots led the team, too.
Pens are back at it Saturday night when the Canadiens come to town. Go Pens.