The Washington Capitals hosted long time rival Pittsburgh Penguins at the Capital One Arena last night. It was a very tightly contested game until about the third period, where Chandler Stephenson scored his second goal of the season and Jakub Vrana would go on to score an empty net goal to seal the win. Washington went on to defeat the Penguins 4-1 in regulation time.
To open up the scoring for Caps fans, John Carlson ripped a bomb from the point on the power play to push them ahead 1-0. Alex Ovechkin threaded a pass across the ice to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who laid it off for Carlson to rip a one-timer from the blue line. The puck was deflected into the top corner off a defenseman’s stick. The Penguins would later tie up the game 1-1 with an own goal from Phil Kessel’s hard-pass off of Dmitry Orlov‘s active stick.
Later in the second period, Carlson again would rip a shot from the blue line. This time it was deflected into the top corner by T.J. Oshie, helping regain the lead for the Caps 2-1. The third goal came from Stephenson off a beautiful pass by Nicklas Backtrom, who finally ended his longest career point drought with the primary assist. He fed Stephenson with a behind-the-net pass through the legs of Alex Chiasson in to the slot for the goal. The game sealing goal came from Vrana, who capitalized off a missed pass by Penguins’ defenseman Justin Schultz. The Capitals went on to win and out shoot the Penguins 31-28.
On the physical side of the house, the Caps’ were on it. Devante Smith-Pelly was an absolute wrecking ball and Tom Wilson was a presence as always. Liam O’Brien would answer the call from renowned fighter Ryan Reaves and drop the gloves, only to be taken down in the first few hits. Not the best bout by O’Brien, but a smart move to take Reaves out of the game for five minutes so the team could gain the lead. It’s one of those hidden strategies that not many people know about, but is neccessary in desperate times.
Overall, this was a well executed game from the Caps to capitalize on the crippling Pittsburgh team. They stuck to their game and played very conservative. Almost every player on the team was playing their game and playing well. Braden Holtby earned his 200th career win, becoming the 2nd fastest to do so behind Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden. I hope they can carry this momentum into Sunday when they host the Edmonton Oilers. Brett Connolly is possible to return next game, so Coach Trotz will take that into consideration for line combinations. He will most likely send O’Brien back to Hershey for he hasn’t made as much of an impact as other recalls like Stephenson, Madison Bowey, and Christian Djoos. I think things are going well for the team and should slowly and carefully integrate injured players back into the lineup.