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Capitals vs. Penguins Recap: Caps can't complete comeback, trail 3-1 in series

Washington has their work cut out for them.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Not that it was ever going to be easy.

One terribly unfortunate deflection off Dmitry Orlov’s skate, six offensive zone penalties, 24 blocked attempts, and 36 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury all helped put the Washington Capitals’ backs against the wall. The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 4 on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, 3-2, to go up 3-1 in the series.

Here’s Wednesday’s plus-minus. Join the conversation in the comments below!

  • Plus: The Caps tied the game in the second period after going down 2-0 early, showing resilience again after putting themselves in dire straits.
  • Minus: Aside from the early two-goal deficit, surrendering the game-winning goal from Justin Schultz less than three minutes after the Penguins tied it proved to be too difficult for the Capitals to come back from.

My ten thoughts:

  • Certainly, out-shooting Pittsburgh by 20 isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Did Washington have the better run of play? Probably so.

All that being said, the Caps didn’t take advantage of the Penguins’ multiple flatline stretches.

  • As Alex Ovechkin stated himself after the game, he needed to do better (two shots, four attempts). Nicklas Backstrom had no shots and T.J. Oshie had two as well; and Barry Trotz agreed that the top line didn’t perform to their standards.
  • I’m not one to preach puck luck as a completely random occurrence that a given team or player has little control over, but as far as luck is concerned, the Orlov “own goal” probably ranks up there with the most painful Capitals playoff moments ever.
  • Fleury was outstanding again tonight; to that end, the Caps could have challenged him more with quicker shots and more net-front presence. Those aren’t mutually exclusive.
  • If you’re looking for a turning point in the game aside from the Orlov mishap, the Caps had five shots on goal over the course of four power plays. One of those man advantages came when Matt Cullen was called for a high-sticking double minor, and Washington couldn’t make it count - Ovechkin was called for slashing with 1:19 left in the power play.
  • A silver lining: The Johansson-Kuznetsov-Williams line was terrific again. Case in point: Williams and Johansson provided the primary and secondary assists on Kuznetsov’s goal that put the Caps on the board in the second period.
  • On the flip side: All the penalties that Washington was called for, including a dubious-to-say-the-least high sticking against Oshie, took place in the offensive zone. You could argue that some penalties are productive when they happen in the defensive zone to take away an even higher quality chance, but tonight’s were seemingly more ill-timed than the last and plain unnecessary considering where they were on the ice.
  • In fairness, Andre Burakovsky’s near-miss on the first half of that four-minute power play would have leveled the score and shifted all the momentum to the Caps. Aside from the Oshie high-sticking, that was one of the more groan-inducing plays of the game.
  • Historically, the Caps are 5-4 all-time in Game 5 when trailing 3-1. When trailing and playing at home down 3-1 in the Ovechkin era, they’re 3-0.
  • As far as any feelings you may have on the Capitals’ championship window quickly slamming shut, I won’t tell you how to feel. As I said after Game 1, if they played that well and lost, I had really nothing to say. Personally, I think that while Washington has done many things fairly well, they haven’t done the particular things that win you playoff hockey games (puck control, end-to-end skating, communication, etc.) nearly well enough, and have made their own bed as far as their 3-1 deficit is concerned.

To visualize the goal the goal credited to Jake Guentzel that put Pittsburgh up 2-0 (NSFW):