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Caps vs. Pens Recap: Grubauer Dazzles, Stonewalls Pittsburgh for 3-1 Victory

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The Washington Capitals earned an important win on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, dropping the Penguins to claim the Metropolitan Division title.

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

With a Metropolitan Division title on the line, would the Washington Capitals answer the bell against the Pittsburgh Penguins, or get rolled like so many ugly black-and-yellow jerseys into a carry-on suitcase?

Here’s Sunday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals win the Metropolitan Division, Philipp Grubauer is utterly outstanding, and the Penguins lose. I mean, what more could you possibly want?

Minus: Jay Beagle, faithful retriever, left the game in the first period and did not return. Heal up, boy!

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. The Capitals rolled up to Pittsburgh on Sunday night with nothing less than Metropolitan Division title hanging in the balance. With Pittsburgh trailing Washington by just three points for the division lead and Washington with a chance to clinch another painfully ironic banner, which hated rival would emerge glorious and victorious?

2. Perhaps even more significantly, tonight was O Captain My Captain Alex Ovechkin’s 1000th career game, making him the first player in Capitals franchise history to do so for the Red....and blue....and gold....and black....look, he’s worn a lot of jerseys. Would the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history add a little lox to his commemorative bagel by leaving his mark on the scoresheet?

3. The Capitals got out of the gate tonight like a racehorse with an agenda. Andre Burakovsky made an orchid-delicate pass from the neutral zone to a streaking T.J. Oshie. The Real American Hero hit the three-wheel motion and beat goalie Matt Murray with the entire lunchroom watching, yikes, to make it 1-0 Caps at the break.

4. One bad bit of news from the first period: center Jay Beagle got turned around like a lost dog and corkscrewed into the ice, his leg undergoing some troublesome torque in the process. Beagle would not answer the bell for the second stanza, and the Capitals ruled out his return shortly thereafter. With Shane Gersich and Alex Chiasson waiting in the press box, we’ll await an updated injury report on The Good Dog’s status.

5. The second period got off to a great start if you’re a fan of action movies where the hero forgets their parachute. Just five minutes into the frame, Brett Connolly and Matt Niskanen got dinged for minor penalties within 40 seconds of each other, and the Capitals stared down the ugly mustard-yellow muzzle of a 5-on-3 power play for nearly a minute and a half. Behind stellar, otherworldly uberplay from Philipp Grubauer, the Caps killed off the task and seized Lady Momentum from the Penguins and their hometown crowd.

6. And it paid off ten minutes later, when defenseman Dmitry Orlov got loose on a breakaway, and with Sidney Crosby’s delicate mustache fluttering desperately behind him, Dima ripped a snipe worthy of a KGB special operative past Matt Murray and into the business end of the net to make it 2-0 Washington at the second intermission.

7. The third period, like your conception, started off with a bang. Just 23 second into the frame, a hard-crashing, wave-like Tom Wilson placed his paddle in the crease and popped home a perfect precision pass from Matt Niskanen, staking the Capitals to a 3-0 lead and snatching the air out of PPG Paints Arena faster than crackin’ wise about Heinz.

8. As time dwindled, Pittsburgh began to bring the heat, throwing everything but the kitchen Kessel at Washington. Herr Grubauer held like the Berlin Wall until the final four minutes, when a Carl Hagelin shot took a fortuitous bounce off of Grubi’s pads and onto the stick of Patric Hornqvist, Human Itch. Hornqvist quickly put it back to make it 3-1 Capitals.

9. In the final minute, things really got weird. As Evgeni Malkin glided to the bench, he collided with T.J. Oshie, dislodging Oshie’s stick. Malkin then flipped Oshie’s stick into the Capitals’ bench, striking an assistant coach, according to the NBC Sports broadcast. Malkin was ejected from the game, as was a Pittsburgh assistant coach shortly thereafter. All’s fair in love and war, they say, and the same goes for squads that just flat out hate each other’s guts.

10. That was all she wrote, and the Capitals take home a resounding 3-1 victory and another Metropolitan Division title.

Philipp Grubauer was so damn good tonight, he probably won himself the starting job in the playoffs. Grubauer saved 36 of 37 shots for a .973 SV%, including killing five powerplay opportunities.

We’ve got ourselves a hot goalie and an overperforming young team in Washington, folks. Bring on the playoffs.

Game highlights: