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Capitals vs. Penguins Recap: Pens Take Opener in Shootout

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Washington tied the game in the third, but ended up falling in extra time in an entertaining season-opener in Pittsburgh.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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The Capitals opened the 2016-17 season in Pittsburgh. After a 20-minute ceremony commemorating the Penguins' Stanley Cup win in June, the puck dropped on a new season.

Here's Thursday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: The Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Andre Burakovsky line was effective. They generated chances off the rush with their speed and skill. Burakovsky scored twice, both with primary assists by Backstrom.
  • Minus: The Capitals were a little careless with their zone exits, and turnovers while trying to be too cute led to one goal against and almost more.
And now, this:

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The game got off to a quick start. Chris Kunitz got in alone for the Penguins, but Dmitry Orlov - who had a fairly decent game paired with John Carlson, though with some risky moments - stretched his stick back and nudged Kunitz's enough to make him whiff on a shot. Seconds later, the Capitals got going the other way. Backstrom fed a pass to Burakovsky with some space in the middle, and Burakovsky beat Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole less than a minute in.
  • A little over six minutes in, Brian Dumoulin passed from the left point to Evgeni Malkin in the right circle for a one-timer. Malkin placed it well, toward his near post, but Braden Holtby slid across and made the save look relatively simple. Both goalies were sharp in this one.
  • While the pace of the game was good early on, it didn't translate to post-whistle extracurriculars until Tom Kuhnhackl skated into Holtby behind the Caps' net (picking up a minor penalty in the process). The teams converged at that point, and after the penalty expired, Tom Wilson and Tim Sestito got into a fight. Later in the game, Justin Williams took exception to Malkin poking at Holtby and threw Malkin into the boards.
  • While the Capitals had the better of play in the first, the Penguins were stronger to start the second. Eric Fehr rang a shot off the right goalpost on a 3-on-2 a couple of minutes in. At the seven-minute mark, Sestito seemed to have a wide-open net (again on a 3-on-2), but Holtby made a terrific right pad stop. And just before the nine minute mark, Patric Hornqvist tipped in Kris Letang's point shot to tie the game.
  • Although the Capitals got better in the second half of the period, the Penguins got the go-ahead goal. T.J. Oshie tried to tip a puck out of the zone, but it was intercepted by Conor Sheary, who found Evgeni Malkin all alone in front of Holtby for a deke and a goal.
  • Washington's power play did not connect on its three opportunities. Alex Ovechkin had a great chance on the first (it went off Fleury's mask) but on later power plays the Capitals found it difficult to set up and get chances.
  • Backstrom was terrific in this game, and set up Burakovsky for another pretty goal six minutes into the third. He picked up a bouncing puck near the Pittsburgh blueline. One-on-one against Trevor Daley, Backstrom skated across the slot and left the puck for the trailing Burakovsky, who rifled a shot past Fleury.
  • Johansson had a wonderful opportunity to give the Capitals the lead after he was first to a puck Matt Niskanen chipped into the Penguins zone, but while trying to cut across the crease, Fleury attempted a poke check. Johansson either toe-picked or was tripped and couldn't finish.
  • Zach Sanford had a quiet, though not invisible, debut. He helped set up a chance for Eller which went off the crossbar in the second but committed a turnover that led to a great late chance for Nick Bonino in the third. Eller, for his part, hit two crossbars, including one in overtime after a nice setup by Alex Ovechkin.
  • After a Nick Bonino miss, Malkin, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel connected in the shootout for Pittsburgh. Ovechkin misfired in the fourth round to clinch the win for the Penguins.

Losing the season-opener - especially to this opponent, given the playoffs five months ago - cannot feel good. But the Capitals looked good against a very good opponent (albeit one without its best player) and did not show any big weaknesses. On to the home opener on Saturday.

Game highlights: