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Capitals v. Penguins Recap: Caps Can’t Shake Off the Rust in a 6-3 Loss to the Penguins

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Caps lose their 4th straight game against the Penguins after a lackluster and out-of-sync effort.

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

After the Caps had an unexpected week off, they iced their A lineup today against the Penguins:

Would this A lineup lead to success? The first period was a bit of a downer, as the Caps found themselves trailing 2-1 despite a fairly even period at 5v5. The two teams traded 2 goals each in the second, and the Caps went into the third trailing 4-3.

Here’s Sunday afternoon’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Although the Caps looked out of sync, it was nice to see their full lineup in the game, and they made it through without any major injuries.

Minus: Vitek Vanecek was rock-solid for the first month of the year...but the last few games he’s struggled. In particular, Vanecek gave up a couple of backbreaking goals in the second period.

And now...

Here’s 10 more notes on today’s game:

  • After the Penguins killed an early penalty by the Caps, they weren’t able to kill a second one. Newly returned Evgeny Kuznetsov snuck a change-up by Tristan Jarry to give the Caps a 1-0 lead...with just a bit of a friendly hop off of Penguins defensemen John Marino.
  • That lead didn’t hold for long though...as Bryan Rust finished a pretty sequence started by Sidney Crosby to tie the game at 1. Though I am perhaps this blog’s foremost Dmitry Orlov apologist, I am required to admit that the goal came off of a pretty bad turnover from the Caps defensemen.
  • And the Penguins kept right on rolling, taking a 2-1 lead when Brandon Tanev crashed the net after an ugly rebound by Vitek Vanecek on a point shot by Cody Ceci.
  • After regrouping in the second period, Jakub Vrana finished off a strong shift by the second line by backhanding a shot past Jarry to tie the game at 2 a piece.
  • However, that lead didn’t last long, as Rust scored his second goal on the powerplay to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead. This was yet another ugly goal by Vanecek, who didn’t appear to track the puck as it found it’s way to Rust.
  • The Penguins quickly extended the lead to 4-2 on a goal by Jake Guentzel. Strange enough, this was the Penguins first multi-goal lead this year...thirteen games into the season.
  • However, the Caps cut the least to 4-3 on a pretty little play by Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom was able to swipe the puck off of an...iffy effort by Evgeni Malkin in the defensive zone. This was Backstrom’s 7th goal and 18th point of the year, and he’s been invaluable to the Caps with all of the top offensive players out.
  • Richard Panik had a solid game for the Capitals today. At 5v5 when he was on the ice, the Caps controlled the shot-attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals.
  • To contrast, the Caps 4th line was consistently outplayed and outskated today and were on the ice for an early Penguins goal.
  • Frustratingly, the Caps really didn’t mount much of a push in the third period. The Penguins were able to tack on a couple of empty-net goals in the third to push the final score to 6-3.

Up next for the Caps? A rematch with the Penguins on Tuesday at 7 PM.