Washington hosted rival Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Thursday and the teams did not disappoint in their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series opener. The Penguins enjoyed an early lead provided by Sidney Crosby but a pair of Russian Washington goals eventually deadlocked at game at two apiece. Unfortunately though, a third period goal from Nick Bonino sealed the victory for the Penguins late in Game One.
First up, Thursday night’s Plus/Minus.
- Plus: A late second period goal from Alex Ovechkin invigorated a Washington team that looked rattled at times in the first and second frames. His goal changed the entire momentum of the game, turning it the Capitals’ way after 38 minutes of play.
- Minus: The Penguins exited the locker room after the first intermission and dictated play from the opening puck drop. The result? Two lightning quick goals against a shocked Capitals team.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Ovechkin took an early penalty less than four minutes into the contest, forcing the Capitals to kill off a hot Pittsburgh power play group to start the game. Fast feet from Tom Wilson and company, and an errant Phil Kessel shot, kept the Penguins scoreless.
- Washington would have the first period’s best chance with T.J. Oshie following an Ovechkin shot to the crease and hopping on the rebound. Unfortunately, Jake Guentzel’s left leg saved the day for Pittsburgh and prevented the puck from getting past Marc-Andre Fleury. The opening period only featured ten shots on goal, six of which belonged to the Capitals.
- But only 12 seconds in the second period and Pittsburgh hit paydirt. Guentzel connected with Sidney Crosby in the slot and the world’s best didn’t his chance, firing a quick snapshot high into the shortside of Braden Holtby’s net.
- And only 52 seconds later He did it again, this time cashing in on a quick assist from Patric Hornqvist atop the crease. Holtby left a juicy rebound available after an Olli Maatta point shot and the Penguins two skaters in front turned the red light on.
- But before the second period could end Ovechkin wired a patented wrist shot from the high slot that beat Fleury and put the Capitals and Verizon Center right back into the contest. A pair of nice passes from Oshie and Lars Eller gave the Capitals’ Captain all the time and space he needed to get Washington on the board.
- Washington bested Pittsburgh in shots during the second period by two once again (13 to 11) as the Capitals’ offense began to come alive after Ovechkin’s late tally.
- With Kevin Shattenkirk and Scott Wilson in the penalty box to start the third period both teams traded a few good chances at four aside but Holtby and Fleury stood tall against each opportunity.
- And less than eight minutes into the frame Evgevy Kuznetsov pounded home a Matt Niskanen pass that froze Pittsburgh’s entire defense. With the Penguins’ defense scrambling in their own zone Niskanen found space in the slot and put a beautiful pass across the ice surface for Kuznetsov’s tally.
- But Bonino would put the Penguins ahead late once again with a tally just past the third period’s 12 minute mark. A smart pass into space from Wilson allowed Bonino to beat Shattenkirk and Brooks Orpik to the net, and he didn’t miss.
- No power play opportunities. Ouch.