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Capitals vs. Penguins Recap: Caps Fall on Home Ice, End Penguins’ Losing Skid

Washington fails to make it two in a row, falling to a short-handed Pittsburgh squad

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Losers of seven straight, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked to turn their luck on the road against the Washington Capitals Wednesday night, as they turned the tide with a 4-1 victory in D.C.

Here’s Wednesday’s night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Woof, well… Sonny Milano recorded his first point of the year and his first marker on the stat sheet as a member of the Capitals.

Minus: After ending a four-game losing streak on Tuesday, Washington’s loss dropped them to 1-3-2 in their last six contests.

And now, this…

Washington started the game as the quicker and more puck-dominant team, registering the first five shots on goal and holding the visitors without an attempt on net for the first seven minutes of the contest. Pittsburgh responded by registering the next six shots on goal and finished the fast-moving first period with a 12-7 shots advantage. Brock McGinn, Jason Zucker, and of course Sidney Crosby led all skaters with two shots apiece while Martin Fehervary’s 7:39 time on ice set the pace through the first 20 minutes.

With 1:08 remaining in the opening stanza, Evgeny Kuznetzov’s hooking call on Sidney Crosby on Darcy Kuemper’s doorstep gave the Penguins the first odd-man advantage of the contest but likely saved Washington from surrendering the game’s opening goal. Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on the powerplay which carried over to start the second period, before promptly blanking Washington’s man-advantage opportunity immediately thereafter courtesy of a Crosby interference call.

Pittsburgh picked up the first tally of the contest at 12:17 mark in the second as Jason Zucker put a shot on net from a zero angle along the corner boards, the puck got tangled up in Darcy Kuemper’s skates and clicked in over the goalline to give the Penguins the 1-0 advantage. A Garnett Hathaway roughing penalty against Kris Letang brought the Caps’ PK unit back out and they rose to the occasion by preventing any shot attempts while down a man. Both team’s physicality ramped up with under eight minutes remaining in the middle frame as Jan Rutta cross-checked Alex Ovechkin, but Washington committed an unforced error on a sloppy zone exit from Erik Gustaffson which was scooped up by Brock McGinn who tallied a short-handed goal a to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead with 7:07 left in the 2nd.

Moments after the Pens’ powerplay expired they would strike again as Jeff Petry tallied his third goal of the year on a slap shot from the blue line in the high slot to make it 3-0 Pittsburgh.

For perhaps the first time this season, the Caps’ new netminder looked shaky, as it was one of his worst periods to date in a red, white, and blue sweater. Through two, Washington was out-shot 20-17 and surrendered all three goals in a little over seven minutes of playtime.

Washington’s bruising style sent Jan Rutta and P.O. Joseph to the dressing room with injuries in the first two periods of the contest, while a tough but clean hit down low on Jeff Petry also sent him down the tunnel, leaving Pittsburgh with just three healthy forwards and fifteen minutes remaining in regulation. While Petry did return to the bench after servicing by the training staff, he logged under five minutes of ice time throughout the duration of the contest.

Washington showed their first life since the game’s opening minutes with 7:38 remaining in the third period as Sonny Milano found Marcus Johansson in the low slot from below the goal line as he recorded his fourth goal of the season while Milano tallied his first point as a member of the Washington Capitals.

The marker proved to be too little, too late for Washington as Jake Guentzel’s empty-netter salted away the victory for Pittsburgh by a 4-1 final.

For Washington, Alex Alexeyev logged a defensive-corps low 11:47of ice time, tallying one shot in his first contest called up from Hershey on the year. Evgeny Kuznetsov led the way with five attempts over 18:11 for the hometeam while Darcy Kumper stopped 24 shots on 27 attempts with a .889% save percentage in what was an uncharacteristically underwhelming performance in net.

In snapping their long losing streak, Pittsburgh was led in shots (7) by Josh Archibald and saw tallies from three different skaters. Casey DeSmith stopped all but one of the 25 shots he saw in the cage and recorded a .960% save percentage.

For all the bellyaching about how the NHL struggles to market itself, it’s undeniable that they have gotten and continue to get their money’s worth out of the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry in the post-lockout era. If you were watching the national broadcast, they certainly didn’t let you forget the shared history between the two competitors both during play and in the intermission panel banter. While the league and the sport have plenty to offer beyond these two future hall-of-famers who have been inextricably linked for the entirety of their careers, it can be easy to take for granted that the narrative they help to create was a foundational entry point to very many self-described die-hard fans today and that we’re much, much closer to their collective journey’s ending than we may want to bring ourselves to believe.

In the 62nd all-time matchup between the two, it was Crosby’s squad that come out on top tonight. A visibly and audibly frustrated Alex Ovechkin wasn’t able to propel his short-handed squad looking to stay afloat in the standings until some of their regulars can get back on the mend. Washington returns back to action to close out the four-game homestand in the first of a home-and-home against the ever-challenging Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.