Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen looked like the duo that cut through defensemen and opponents last season. For the first time this season, the pair played something close to their A-game together. The Pittsburgh Penguins rolled up shots, scoring chances, and controlled the game. However, it was one of those nights, and each mistake transformed itself into a Washington Capitals’ goal.
Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov was brilliant, but there’s more to the story.
The Penguins made about four mistakes. And the Capitals scored four goals…despite the Penguins’ 45 shots, 23 scoring chances, and if you like the deep numbers, a 61% xGF.
After a few clunkers that resulted in losses, which followed several clunkers that resulted in wins, the Penguins have not played good hockey in a few weeks. After racing to the top of the Metro Division, they’ve gone sideways.
You know the issues, or at least the primary issue; integrating Evgeni Malkin, and the new dynamics created an unsettled lineup. More injuries, lesser opponents, compressed schedule with west coast travel also conspired to sap the Penguins mojo–until a division arrival showed up Tuesday night.
A few themes were running through the game. A few issues again popped up, but also some hope heading into the week-long All-Star break.
“I thought it was the best game we played in a while. I thought the energy level was tremendous. I thought we were playing on our toes. I thought we controlled territory. We generated scoring chances. Our power play was dynamic. For me, it had all of the ingredients that I think make the identity of the Penguins what it is,” Mike Sullivan said.
This was the game the Penguins and a few others needed, even if the result wasn’t two points.