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Playoff Bound! Penguins, Kapanen’s 2 Goals Beat Capitals in OT 5-4

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Pittsburgh Penguins Kasperi Kapanen

It looked like a Pittsburgh Penguins win. For more than 90 seconds, the Penguins shot at the Washington Capitals empty net with a 4-3 lead. However, the Washington Capitals villain Tom Wilson was left alone in front of the Penguins net in the waning seconds and scored the tying goal.

Things were tense, but the Penguins rallied to beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 in OT at the Capital One Center. The Capitals forced overtime for the fourth time in seven games against the Penguins, but Jake Guentzel (22) scored the OT winner.

“It was one of those crazy games,” Freddy Gaudreau said.

With a New York Rangers loss on the scoreboard, the Penguins win clinched a 15th consecutive playoff appearance and claimed first place in the East Division.

Until Guentzel scored, it was the Penguins’ secondary players who filled the net.

For the first time ever, Alex Ovechkin missed a Penguins-Capitals game. Ovechkin has played in every matchup in his 16-year career. The Penguins grinders outplayed the Washington bottom-line players, and Tristan Jarry, who turned 26 on Thursday, outplayed Washington goalie Vitek Vanecek.

Jarry stopped 33 of 37 shots.

The Jeff Carter line with Kasperi Kapanen earned a pair of goals.

Their first broke the ice for the Penguins midway through the first period. Trailing 1-0 and on the wrong side of the puck, Carter and Jared McCann forced Washington defenseman Nick Jenson into a turnover. Kasperi Kapanen (9) plucked a floating pass out of the air and quickly snapped it past Washington goalie Vitek Vanecek.

The second goal by the Carter line, again by Kapanen, was to be the game-winner, until Wilson’s tying goal. In just two passes, the Penguins covered 150 feet and lit the lamp. Carter began the breakout with a soft backhand breakout to Jared McCann, whose cross-ice pass sprung Kapanen into the Washington zone.

Kapanen (11) went top shelf for his wrister, and the Penguins officially earned a season-series win against Washington (5-2-0).

The Penguins trailed in the first period after Washington scored a power-play goal. Just 12 seconds after Evan Rodrigues erred with a Delay of Game penalty, Washington’s power play struck gold. T.J. Oshie (18) deflected Justin Schultz’s point shot.

The Washington power-play goal ended a Penguins streak of nine straight penalty kills against Washington.

It was a rough period for Rodrigues. Not only did he chip the puck out of play, but he also suffered what looked like a serious foot injury when he turned his skate to deflect Mike Matheson’s slap shot. Rodrigues collapsed to the ice and had to be helped to the locker room.

The Penguins played with just 11 forwards for most of the game, yet their third and fourth lines were the goal-scoring trios.

The Penguins briefly earned a second-period lead. In the middle of the period, the Penguins created another turnover when Jason Zucker grabbed an errant puck and fed fourth-line center Frederick Gaudreau on the doorstep. Gaudreau (2) stuffed it past Vanecek.

However, just 30 seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom won the faceoff, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (8) beat Tristan Jarry from 55 feet. 2-2.

Despite the Penguins’ decided advantage for most of the second period, Washington staked a 3-2 lead later in the period. After a defensive whiff that allowed Gaudreau’s goal, Washington winger Daniel Sprong redeemed himself when he charged the net and deflected Justin Schultz’s point shot.

The Penguins answered in the final two minutes. After fourth-line center Gaudreau scored, third-line winger Zach Aston-Reese followed. The Penguins created yet another Washington turnover in the offensive zone. Colton Sceviour earned his second assist with a backcheck takeaway.

Sceviour poked his prize to Zach Aston-Reese (9) near the net, and Aston-Reese scored his career-high ninth goal with a nifty backhand between Vanecek’s pads. 3-3.

The Pittsburgh Penguins back in the playoffs. And water is wet. Dog bites man. And none of us ever, ever doubted or predicted otherwise, right?

PHN’s 3 Stars:

Colton Sceviour

A pair of assists and more strong backchecking. The Penguins’ lesser stars were big on Thursday and Sceviour continued his strong run.

Jeff Carter

The big Penguins center was pivotal (no pun intended). The Carter line was the Penguins’ primary offensive driver. He handed his duties quietly and efficiently. Most importantly, he launched Jared McCann and Jason Zucker.

Kasperi Kapanen

Two goals. More speed than Washington could handle. He was the Penguins best player.

Editor’s Note: The original headline stated the Penguins were in first place. They are in second place based on percentage points and one less regulation win than the Washington Capitals.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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