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For just the second time this year - and the second of just three times for the whole season - the Caps and Pens took the ice for one of their usual high-octane meetings at Cap One.
There was more good news/bad news on that front for the Caps, as Nick Backstrom shook off whatever had been ailing him last game to rejoin the lineup, but Tom Wilson, a gametime decision, ended up sitting out after blocking a shot last game. The Caps would also get T.J. Oshie back after #77 missed the Avs game to attend the birth of his new baby.
Here is what the lineup looked like heading into this one:
#Caps' lines vs. PIT:— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) January 26, 2023
8-Ovechkin, 17-Strome, 77-Oshie
15-Milano, 19-Backstrom, 90-Johansson
39-Mantha, 92-Kuznetsov, 73-Sheary
96-Aube-Kubel, 20-Eller, 21-Hathaway
56-Gustafsson, 57-van Riemsdyk
Kuemper vs. DeSmith. #CapsPens
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Game aside, this was a really nice moment between Ovechkin and Kris Letang during warmups as Letang had recently lost his father. A lot of years, a lot of battles, and a lot of respect between those two - and a really sweet gesture by the Caps’ captain.
A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:
- The Caps came out of the gate firing tonight, establishing their attack early on and peppering Casey DeSmith with multiple shots and hitting double digits in shots before the first period was 10 minutes old. That hard work paid off, with pint-sized spark plug Conor Sheary drawing a penalty to put the Caps up a man.
- Alex Ovechkin made sure to reward Sheary for his efforts, when, after being closely guarded by white jerseys for the first part of the power play, he suddenly found himself free - and open. And you just can’t leave Ovechkin free, open, and with the puck on the power play. 1-0 Caps.
8️⃣1️⃣2️⃣ pic.twitter.com/K0nyXQJxN8— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 27, 2023
- A few minutes later, the two teams traded rushes, with Matt Irwin making a great diving stick check on Evgeni Malkin to prevent the scoring chance in front of his goalie:
- Last game, the Caps went the entire 60 minutes without a single penalty... but we all knew that would never happen against the Penguins, for a number of reasons. Anyway, Garnet Hathaway took a boarding call in the final five of the first, but the Caps did a tremendous job of killing this one off, led by a clinic in puck possession from Lars Eller and friends. The result? A couple of almost-goals by the PK (and three shots for Eller) and 0 shots on goal for the Pens.
- Would’ve liked to see a bigger number on the scoreboard for the Caps after that first, but this is something:
At the moment, Caps have been credited with 22 shots in the first period. That's the most shots ever by the Caps in the first period of a regular season home GP v. Pens (124 GP).— Bob Grove (@bobgrove91) January 27, 2023
- And of course it was the Penguins getting on the board early in the second period, with fake player Danton Heinen batting in a rebound that had bounced around the net front a bit, eluding Darcy Kuemper.
- With the game knotted at one, the two teams engaged in a bit of a war of attrition for the remainder of the second, with the pace slowing waaaaaay down. The Penguins did have the offensive upside overall, aside from the goal, generating more shots and attempts than their hosts in the middle frame - but the Caps continued to get their chances.
- Continuing the trend of goals early in the period, Marcus Johansson collected a nice drop pass from Backstrom entering the Penguins’ zone, and with Sonny Milano crashing the net, Johansson was able to fire a shot over DeSmith’s shoulder to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.
Right on the money pic.twitter.com/OtwO50BPSJ— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 27, 2023
- The Pens decided to flip the script and get one later in the frame, with Bryan Rust - who is, of course, in a lengthy slump - putting one past Kuemper to knot the game at two. Not one Kuemper’s going to be happy with, as it looks like he was leaning a bit on the shot.
- 2-2 after regulation means points all around - hooray! - and overtime, for these two teams who have spent many an extra frame together over the years.
- Less than a minute into the overtime, Evgeni Malkin was whistled for a trip on T.J. Oshie in the neutral zone, and just like that, the Caps went a man up when they needed it most. Unfortunately they couldn’t make Malkin and the Pens pay, and back to evens - four-on-four this time - to wrap up overtime.
- It was an eventful overtime, to be sure, with plenty of good chances on both sides... but alas, 65 minutes would not be enough and it was time for everyone’s favorite: the Shootout. Nick Backstrom picked up the winner and Kuemper turned aside Malkin and that was it, the Caps take a big extra point!
Next up, the Caps hit the road once again for two more games - Toronto and Columbus - before getting a lengthy break for the All-Star Game and Bye Week.