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Breaking Down the Breakdown: MoJo Puts the Caps on Top

Marcus Johansson’s goal last night was the product of a perfectly executed set play - and a little confusion by the Pens’ top defenseman.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

The Caps’ go-ahead goal in the third period of last night’s win over Pittsburgh was a great play all around - and about as close to a set play in live action that you’ll ever see, with all five Caps’ skaters touching the puck and playing a role in the eventual outcome.

First, let’s take a look at the full play:

The play starts in the defensive zone, where the Penguins send a two-man forecheck in after Matt Irwin (because why wouldn’t you?). Irwin holds them off and is able to get the puck over to Martin Fehervary.

Fehervary then makes a nice bank pass off the boards - and past a Pittsburgh defender’s stick - up to Sonny Milano. Milano bump sets to Nicklas Backstrom, and they are all set for a three-on-three zone entry.

Here we can see that Backstrom is angled toward Johansson. The forward moves in to cover Backstrom, and Kris Letang is lined up with Johansson, and at first the Pens are in position for the rush.

The problems begin when Letang makes the decision to drop back on the zone entry - potentially seeing Milano driving the net and opting to cover the slot area.

Watch here how Letang floats away from Johansson:

By doing so, he leaves Brian Dumoulin on the wrong side of the ice to take care of Backstrom, and puts both defensemen on the same side of the ice, with two men on Milano... and no one guarding Johansson. By the time the third Penguin, Brock McGinn, notices and goes to cover Johansson, Marcus has already taken his position at the top of the circle and fired away.


You just can’t let a shooter shoot from there, and you don’t get to be the second-leading goal-scorer on any team without being a shooter. Johansson is a shooter, and makes no mistake (although one could argue that Casey DeSmith did in not stopping it).

Let’s watch the goal one more time (or three):