PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals put on a show. The Penguins season began like the climax of a Francis Ford Coppola gangster flick. There were mistakes, reactions, actions and more mistakes and more plays which led to an overtime 7-6 Penguins win a PPG Paints Arena.
In the first eight minutes of the Penguins season, the Penguins and Washington Capitals combined for more goals (5) than combined saves (3). The sequel continued in the second period, as the teams traded goals in the first four minutes.
Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak scored the first goal of the Penguins season just under two minutes into the game. After an aggressive forecheck by Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel created extended zone time, the 6-foot-7 Oleksiak stepped into a slapshot from the top of the circle. It was the Penguins first shot on goal of the season, too.
Moments later, Hagelin deflected a shot just wide of the far post. And on the subsequent shift, Penguins center Sidney Crosby had a mini-breakaway from the slot. Washington goalie Braden Holtby made the save only with the blade of his skate. The Penguins just missed their chances for a two-goal lead.
And when a team misses glorious opportunities, the hockey gods usually punish them. And they did.
The Capitals scored three goals in the first period, including Washington winger Jakub Vrana taking the puck from Olli Maatta at center, Brooks Orpik inexplicably beating Matt Murray with a slapshot from the blue line, and an uncovered Alex Ovechkin deflecting a pass past Murray.
“A lot of good open looks (for both teams),” said Murray. “The one (the Orpik slapshot), I feel like my pants were a little open. I was all over it. I guess that’s the new pants. What (the NHL) wanted.” Murray also mentioned the new lively boards at PPG Paints Arena. The new boards follow the design of many around the league which provide more give for safety but also spring the puck faster into play.
The Penguins vaunted power play interrupted the Capitals onslaught and tied the game 2-2 when Jake Guentzel stuffed the puck in the net after Daniel Sprong fanned on a shot.
In the second and third period, the Penguins kept the pressure on the Capitals and tried to pull away. Kris Letang’s slap shot from the point beat Holtby, Guentzel (2) deflected Justin Schultz’ shot for his second goal, and Derick Brassard finished more gritty wall work from Bryan Rust by finishing a rebound chance. The Penguins led 6-4 with under eight minutes remaining.
But the villains never fall without a final surprise.
With just over seven minutes remaining, Washington power forward T.J. Oshie scored a pair of goals 21 seconds apart to force overtime. Oshie’s first marker was the result of his theft of Evgeni Malkin’s blind clearing pass, then he deflected John Carlson’s point shot for the second.
“It wasn’t really pretty, but we got what matters most,” said Brassard. “It’s what you have to expect for a first game. Everyone’s kind of anxious. Nervous a little bit.”
Kris Letang (2), who did not have a staring role in the first period, scored the game-winner in overtime on another long-range shot past Holtby. A power play goal.
The Penguins won 7-6.
“There were ups and downs,” said Letang. “I think it was a first game. Guys held their stick pretty tight and hesitated in different areas.” Letang had two goals and one assist to tie Penguins great Paul Coffey as the Penguins all-time leader in points by a defenseman.
When asked about the crazy game and lack of goaltending in the first period, Murray responded: “As long as we win.”
As long as they win, indeed. For the record, the Penguins are on pace for 574 goals scored and despite a brutal first 10 minutes