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Capitals vs Penguins Game 3: What Worked and What Didn't

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Heading into Game 4, we take a look at what worked and what didn't in Game 3.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, mostly because hockey is the cruelest interest you could possibly select from the world's vast catalogue of pastimes, a team plays a nearly perfect game of hockey, still doesn't win, and has to put together a frenetic last-minute push to even make it close. One such instance was Game 3, a game during which the Capitals completely dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins but came out with nothing to show for it.

Here's our breakdowns for Game 1 and Game 2.

Now let's take a look at what worked and what didn't during Game 3.

What Worked

  • Good Start
Looking past that the Penguins went into first intermission with a two goal lead, mostly as a result of dumb luck (which we'll touch on later), the Caps actually came out and played a pretty great opening twenty minutes on the road. They outshout the Pens 14 to 8 in all situations, out attempted them 18 to 12 at five on five, and had four high-danger scoring chances to the Pens' one.

The Caps played a really strong opening frame in this one. It's a shame they didn't get the results they deserved.

And it's not like they took their foot off the pedal. Quite the opposite, actually. Here's a look at how possession looked at the end of the game.

  • Shutting Down Sidney Crosby
Three games into this series, and Sidney Crosby still doesn't have a point. Even with last change, Mike Sullivan wasn't able to get Crosby away from Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner too much -- he finished the night with two scoring chances (one of them of the high-danger variety), and three individual shot attempts. If you can sign up for that kind of output from the opposition's best player on any given night, you take it every time.
  • Alex Ovechkin
Let's start with the snipe.

Ovechkin added an assist on Justin Williams' late tally, and spent the better part of the third period laying the wood on Pittsburgh blueliners. At five on five, Ovechkin finished with five individual scoring chances, two of which were "high-danger", and nine individual shot attempts, and a gaudy 69% CF.

To put it simply, Ovechkin was a forced to be reckoned with; if he can keep up that level of play (and the production that came along with it), it's going to go a long way in getting this series trending the way he wants.

What Didn't

  • Dumb Luck
Whether it was the puck that lived high on the z-axis for long enough to create on-ice confusion before dropping down in a good spot for the Pens to set up a one-timer from the blueline that ultimately bounced passed Braden Holtby, or whether it was a puck going off of Tom Kuhnhackl's back and into the net, or whether it was Justin Williams' wrist shot off the post a few minutes later... there's no question the Caps' got nothing but rotten luck to start this one.
  • Nate Schmidt's SCB
Down 2-0 late in the second, the Caps were pushing, and it felt inevitable that one of those shot attempts would weasel its way behind Matt Murray. And then Nate Schmidt went and did this, and we all acutely felt the difference between a two- and a three-goal deficit.

Just an absolutely brutal play by Schmidt, first turning the puck over with a total joke of a pass, and then getting outmuscled at the net to allow Carl Hagelin to tap it in. There's no silver lining for Schmidt here. This was, as Caps fan like to say, all his fault.

  • Beating Matt Murray
Sometimes you just have to tip your lid to the guy in the opposing net... even if it feels like one particular hockey team has done that entirely too often over the years. But the Caps were simply bested by a goaltender on his game tonight. 48 shots, 82 shot attempts, 40 scoring chances, and 10 high-danger scoring chances...all amounting to 2 goals? All you can really do is hope for some better luck next time, because as good as Murray was, if the Caps have even the most infinitesimal sliver of good fortune during Game 3, they're probably the ones taking a series lead.

Here's Murray stoning T.J. Oshie during the games opening few minutes. Enjoy the taste of salt in your mouth.