It’s always an interesting affair when the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins face-off. The Pens came into this contest winners of five straight, while in the previous week the Caps had played in three consecutive 3-0 games, one up and two down. This one did not disappoint either, as another chapter in this fierce rivalry had a two-goal comeback and three lead changes, and 60 minutes still wasn’t enough to settle the matter.
Unfortunately for the Caps, Evgeny Malkin ended it in overtime, knocking in a hard bounce off the end boards into a wide-open net, giving the Penguins a 4-3 win.
The recent trends for both teams played out early, as the red-hot Penguins jumped all over the Caps, scoring twice in the first six minutes. With Dennis Wideman in the box for a cross-check, Kris Letang scored from the high slot on an uncontested shot. Just minutes later, Evgeny Malkin won an offensive zone draw right back to James Neal who whipped a wrist shot past Michal Neuvirth, who never saw the puck through a screen of bodies off the draw.
The Caps cut the lead in half playing four-on-four mid-way through the second period, as Dennis Wideman carried the puck below the goal line and found Brooks Laich camped out in the crease for his ninth goal of the season.
A few minutes later, the Caps broke up a Pens rush and made a real quick transition with the puck finally ending up on Mathieu Perreault’s stick. The diminutive center put a low shot on Marc-Andre Fleury, who gave up a big rebound, allowing Alexander Semin to bury it into a wide open net to knot things up.
The Caps proved in the third period that they can still be very dangerous on the rush. Coach Dale Hunter reunited Alexes Ovechkin and Semin and it provided dividends, as Semin hit Ovechkin in perfect stride on a two-on-one to break the tie, after Mathieu Perreault beat Brooks Orpik to a puck along the wall, drawing Orpik out of position.
Neal got his second of the game a couple of minutes later to tie it up again, sneaking one in short side on Neuvirth after a terrific job by Malkin gaining the zone and winning the puck in the corner from Roman Hamrlik.
Overtime was almost avoided, though, when a big blast by Troy Brouwer evaded Fleury with about thirty seconds left. But the hockey gods were not smiling on the Caps on the play, as the blast rang off the far post instead of hitting the net.
This one has intrigue before the puck even droppeed, as the media and fans found out as the Caps came out for pre-game warm-ups that Marcus Johansson would miss the contest with an illness, according to a team spokesperson. That necessitated a lineup change, and coach Dale Hunter responded by putting Mathieu Perreault on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.
Suspense. Back-and-forth action. Lead changes. Superstars performing to their level. Fights and penalties. Overtime. This one had it all. It seems like these games always do.