Bryan Rust scored two goals, including the Pittsburgh Penguins power-play goal, Mike Matheson earned his first point as a Penguins defenseman, and the Penguins (7-5-1) beat the Washington Capitals (6-4-3) for the third straight time this season. And, the Penguins won their second game in a row, 6-3, on Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena.
A little hat tip to Penguins historian Bob Grove, this was also the first 3 p.m. start time between the Penguins and Washington since 2004.
The Pittsburgh Penguins power play was tested a couple of times in the first three-plus minutes. On the first shift, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was hounded by Alex Ovechkin and turned the puck over. The Penguins killed the first chance.
But the PK has plagued the Penguins game this season.
The second Washington power-play chance arrived about 90 seconds later, but the Penguins didn’t kill that one. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s shot was mostly blocked but bounced towards the net. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry didn’t see the deflected shot and it slid across the line.
However, the Penguins scored the next two goals.
Defenseman Mike Matheson flashed his speed and offensive skills as he pinched into the slot and zipped a pretty pass across the circles to Bryan Rust (4), who one-timed it past Washington netminder Vitek Vanecek.
Before the home crowd could sit down, or the NBC network could return from commercials, Brandon Tanev (4) scored a greasy goal when he stuffed Cody Ceci’s rebound into the net. It was the second consecutive game the Penguins third line with Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese put a tally on the scoreboard.
And, the Penguins scored twice in the second period to achieve their first two-goal lead this season. That’s no joke. And, one of those goals was a power-play tally. I’m still not joking.
Six minutes into the second period, Rust was moving forward on the left flank. Kris Letang hit him in stride, and Rust snapped the puck between Vanecek and the near post before the goalie could close off the angle.
Midway through the period, Guentzel was yelling for the puck as he had an open lane in the slot. Sidney Crosby made the pass, and Guentzel (5) made the shot for a 4-2 lead.
It bears repeating. It was the Penguins’ first two-goal lead.
The Penguins also yielded two goals in the second period, and their two-goal didn’t last long. Early in the second period, a gaggle of Penguins, including Sidney Crosby, didn’t cover Jakub Vrana near the net and he planted a rebound behind Tristan Jarry to tie the game 2-2.
Late in the second period, it appeared Evgeni Malkin had Niclas Backstrom well covered and denied Backstrom a centering pass. However, Malkin lost control of the puck, and in the blink of an eye, Backstrom sniped a backhand whack past an equally surprised Jarry.
The second period ended 4-3 for the Penguins.
While the even-strength shots were nearly even (23-21 Washington), Washington owned the scoring chance rates. After two periods, Washington had nearly 60% of the scoring chances and 60% of the high-danger chances.
Tristan Jarry stopped 28 of 31 shots for his third win this season. Vanecek was tagged with his third loss this season.
Zach Aston-Reese (2) scored the 150-foot empty-net goal.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (5) also scored an empty netter to pad the stats and salt the game, too.