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Capitals vs. Penguins Recap: Caps rally after giving up two goals in final minutes, cut Penguins' series lead to 2-1

An instant classic.

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Three Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It wasn’t exactly a closeout or an elimination game, but the ramifications of Monday night’s game couldn’t have been much higher for the Washington Capitals.

A loss would have all but spelled the end for this chapter of the Rock the Red era. Instead, the Caps responded from getting embarrassed in their own barn with a heart-stopping 3-2 overtime win, courtesy Kevin Shattenkirk, over the Pittsburgh Penguins. After Washington surrendered two goals 48 seconds apart in the final two minutes of regulation, Pittsburgh’s lead in this best-of-seven series is now 2-1.

Game 5 in DC will be on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.

Check out Monday night’s plus-minus and sound off in the comments below.

  • Plus: I mean, who among us hasn’t responded to a benching 48 hours prior with a 28-save performance for a season-preserving win? Braden Holtby did.
  • Minus: The incident between Matt Niskanen and Sidney Crosby in the first period was, whether from a human or hockey standpoint, difficult to watch. Crosby has had noted concussion issues in the past, and whether it’s a head injury or something affecting his leg (his left knee appeared to twist when he went to the ice), that’s not good for anybody.

On a lighter note, there’s this. Take a bow, Daniel Winnik.

Ten notes:

  • The Caps led in shots 33-30, pressing more against Pittsburgh and generating more quality chances against Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • More generally, shot attempts were 63-55 in the Capitals’ favor. While not quite as stark of a difference as was on display in the first games of the series, this is a good indicator that Washington is still winning the possession battle - now with the result to match.
  • Mistakes in Games 1 and 2 were a key talking point as to why Washington fell into a 2-0 hole. Monday, they had four giveaways in total, another signal that the team’s quality (rather than just quantity) of possession is further turning in their favor.
  • In 16:58 of ice time, Shattenkirk generated four shot attempts and had four hits, but one giveaway, in addition to the game-winning goal.
  • On the play where Crosby was injured, Niskanen was assessed a game misconduct because that comes in conjunction with a major penalty for cross-checking. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said afterward that Crosby will be evaluated overnight, but gave no further update on the center’s condition.
  • Niskanen, a former teammate and longtime friend of Crosby’s, took questions from the media after the game and addressed the matter.
  • The bad blood didn’t stop there - debate the intent here as much as you want, but this was a really ugly hit from Chris Kunitz.
  • After Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Caps up by two shortly before the halfway mark of the third, Washington seemed to take their foot off the gas and coast into the later stages of regulation. That said, the Penguins had a 1% chance of winning before Evgeni Malkin brought them to within one.
  • And finally, a note for those of you who tend to believe in things sports curses, especially in this city, and in the power of momentum. In the half hour or so between Justin Schultz tied it and Shattenkirk won it, one only needed look at social media to ascertain the pulse of the Capitals fanbase, and use whichever adjective you think fits best. But soon after the game ended, the thought crossed my mind: that’s the kind of game, when virtually all hope seems lost and the “choking dogs” narrative seems as firmly steeled as it’s ever been, that maybe - just maybe - the tide has started to turn in this town after 19 or 25 or 43 years of disappointment (whichever length of time you feel strongest about). I know that the series is still 2-1 in Pittsburgh’s favor, but it’s that kind of win that can spark on a team to accomplish some pretty special things.