Before we get to the Penguins taking control of first place in the division, let’s talk a little about how they got here last night.
And, more specifically, how they closed out last night.
With a 3-0 lead heading into the final frame, no one on earth would’ve faulted the Penguins for sitting back and going into a defensive shell.
Instead, they held the Caps to just 5 shots on goal in all situations and just 4 at 5v5.
More importantly, they took what was a shellacking in the second half of the second period and turned it around, spending the bulk of the 3rd in the offensive zone (Bold line below is score and venue adjusted game flow while the thin line is undjusted)
And that is without a doubt when this team is at their best: pouring gas on a fire and blowing teams apart with offensive zone time. It makes the rest of the game a lot easier on the rest of the team.
It’s also the exact response we’ve come to expect from this team after a little hiccup, which, in the case, was giving up a late lead on Thursday night.
Now, with just 4 games remaining against 2 teams locked in the dungeon of the division without a pot to piss in, they control their own destiny.
For a team that only has 6 whole ass losses on home ice on the season and a team that has inexplicably struggled away from home on the PK, it’s a little advantage that should be grabbed.
And with the way these guys have been winning games, I wouldn’t bet against them.
Only change to the lineup that defeated the Caps on Thursday was Sam Lafferty coming in for the injured ERod. Still no Malkin, but he’s looming.
Here are tonight's lines and D pairs. Sam Lafferty is now in the lineup. pic.twitter.com/qCls2Xt1xF
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 1, 2021
Caps remained without Ovi and Carlson. Samsonov vs. Jarry in the pipes.
— x – Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 1, 2021
Folks. I’ll be honest with you. I missed the entire first period of this game.
In times like these, I’m left with 2 options: either rewatch the period to get a sense of what’s going on and write accordingly or……don’t.
As soon as Mears opened the 2nd period broadcast saying that it was a fairly uneventful first period, I chose to not rewatch the period and instead fill up the content trough for you little piggies by asking Rez what happened.
Thank you Rez.
PIT –2:56 – Rust; A: N/A – 1-0
This is a goooooood start, courtesy of Bryan Rust. pic.twitter.com/5YfV7XRWNM
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 1, 2021
Pens controlled shot attempts 17-11 in 20 minutes of 5v5 play and an 11-5 edge in scoring chances (5-1 in high danger) and a 60.85% control of the share of expected goals. Shot map of the period below shows they did, in fact, live in the slot.
Caps opened the period with some weird set play where they shot the puck off the end wall and tried to catch Jarry with an elastic board one timer. Eller got in the way of the shot and made Jarry’s job easy.
PIT –0:26 – Rust; A: N/A – 2-0
And off the ensuing offensive zone draw, Orlov ended up with a shot from the point that Rust blocked and proceeded to beat Orlov to the loose puck to get himself a breakway.
He ain’t missing here either.
In what I can only assume was similar to the first period, the period slowed down and was pretty uneventful following the goal. Neither team really wanted to give the other an inch, though it was very competitive and tight checking. The pace was high, but the space was limited.
Jarry also made some big pad save on Eller from in tight.
PIT –10:43 – Carter; A: Letang – 3-0
Few minutes later though, my dear old dad Jeff stepped up and filled a void I didn’t know existed.
That void is winning a faceoff, manhandling Nic Dowd in front of the net, and getting body position to get a little bit of luck and steer home Letang’s feed from the boards.
Carter will get a lot of credit here and rightfully so. If you’ve punished yourself enough to watch a bunch of Kings games, you’d have seen Carter do this a number of times. It’s precisely why his shot location chart on the season is what it is: lots of volume from in close.
But watch Letang here. He knows exactly what he’s doing here when Carter wins the draw: he’s driving down the wall and looking for Carter in front. But the way that he slams on the brakes to protect the puck before slinging it to the low slot is the Big Brain Play of the Game™.
Following the Carter goal that truly upset the haters, it was the Tristan Jarry Show to keep the Caps off the board and guide the Pens into the 2nd intermission. He also cleared a puck off Matheson’s face, which forced 5 to miss the rest of the game.
Anyway, no words. Just saves.
Caps really poured it on in the second and were credited with a full 21 of the 30 total second period shot attempts and 9 of the 14 scoring chances. Eight of those 9 were of the high danger variety.
Pens opened the first 6+ minutes of the third frame shutting it down more than your mom when she clicks that link in her email about cash being owed to her. It’s spam, Eleanor. Shutting down your silly little iPhone 4 won’t stop that.
First powerplay of the game went to them too for a puck over the glass situation, but Samsonov turned it all aside.
About two minutes after the kill, the Caps got their first PP of the game when Zucker got caught holding Eller. Blueger got his lunch handed to him by Dillon too after the whistle in what some are considering a fight.
Pens killed the Zucker penalty, got another powerplay of their own with just under 3 minutes to play when Tom Wilson decided to assault Blueger in front of Samsonov, but all that was left to do was get the W, get Jarry the shutout to move to first place in the division, and get Eleanor a new goddamn iPhone.
NEW SMILEY GOALIE ALERT
- There are few things more important than Tristan Jarry’s late 2nd period performance. We might be talking about a different game if the Caps broke the dam and got within at most 2 to start the 3rd. But Jarry was the difference. Saved 2.04 goals above expectation and 7 high danger shots in all situations. Caps had more than their fair share in close, too.
- First time all season Crosby has been held 3 straight games without a point. His line got crushed 15-9 in shot attempts at 5v5, but had an even 8-8 split in unblocked attempts, 5-5 in actual shots on goal, 2-0 in goals, and a 56.58% share of the expected goals. Gotta think Malkin’s return will start lightening their load a bit.
- Fourth line of Lafferty-Gaudreau-Sceviour only played 8:51 at 5v5, but they thoroughly dominated. They were on the ice for just 2 shot attempts against, registering 11 of their own. Caps didn’t have a single shot on goal against them and only had 1 scoring chance, giving up 7 to this trio. This line controlled 86.05% of the on-ice expected goals, too. Absolutely night and day compared to when Jankowski centers it and were the best forward line of the night.
- Letang also had a pretty strong game, controlling 59.05% of the shot attempts, 65.99% of the shots on goal, 65.80% of the expected goals, and 59.26% of the scoring chances when adjusting for score and venue at 5v5. Unadjusted: Shot attempts – 51.28%//Shots on goal – 60%//Expected goals – 59.48%//Scoring chances – 52.94%.
#NHL Impact Card for Pittsburgh Penguins on 2021-05-01:
— HockeyStatCards (@hockeystatcards) May 2, 2021
Pens head to Philly on Monday for the first of a back-to-back out east to kick off the final week of the regular season. Do it.