It’s bitter rivalry night att PPG Paints Arena. The Pittsburgh Penguins (37-23-9) host the Washington Capitals (41-21-7) tonight and more than a couple of messages will be sent. Washington and the Penguins again find themselves embroiled in a close Metropolitan Division race as just six points separate them.
Both Erik Gudbranson and Tom Wilson spoke to PHN today. Gudbranson didn’t want to add gasoline to the fire but noted he will drop the gloves if necessary. Wilson nodded as he spoke of the changing rivalry and the Capitals washing the sour taste from their mouths by eliminating Pittsburgh last season.
The Penguins still have a chance for the division title but will need help. Washington leads the Metro and is 9-1-0 in their last ten games.
Goaltender Matt Murray will set a new personal high for consecutive starts when he makes his ninth-straight start tonight. During his run of eight-straight starts, Murray is 5-1-2 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Washington starts Braden Holtby.
The Penguins displayed toughness in a 4-2 win against the Boston Bruins, Sunday night. Boston rode a 19 game point streak into Sunday’s game; the Penguins secondary scoring prevented it from reaching 20. The Penguins blitzed Boston in the first period with goals by Nick Bjugstad (10) and Jared McCann (15,16). Bjugstad outmuscled his defender for positioning in front the net to tap in a Patric Hornqvist feed to give his team the early lead. The combination of Hornqvist and Bjugstad has galvanized a strong third line in recent games. Jared McCann made it 2-0 on shorthanded breakaway goal, his third shorthanded tally of the year.
Boston and the Penguins exchanged goals in the second period as David Krejci (19) continued his strong season, and Jake Guentzel (34) inched closer to his first 40-goal campaign. Guentzel took a cross-crease pass from Sidney Crosby and flipped it over Jaroslav Halak to extend the Penguins lead to two goals. The Penguins survived an onslaught in the third period by Boston after a John Moore (4) goal cut the lead to 3-2. The Penguins were forced to defend for the majority of the last two minute of regulation before Jared McCann scored an empty net goal to ice the game.
After the game, McCann attributed his two-goal performance to an expanded opportunity and playing with world-class talent.
Matt Murray started in net and saved 39 of 41 shot to help his team secure the win. Jaroslav Halak saved 33 of 36 shots in the loss.
Washington used a Carl Hagelin (4) goal in the second period to help down the Winnipeg Jets in a 3-1 victory, Sunday. Nicklas Backstrom (18) and Lars Eller added goals for Washington. The win was Washington’s seventh straight.
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are meeting for the 74th time tonight (regular season and playoffs). The Pens have won 42 of the first 73 such meetings.
Rookie defenseman Marcus Pettersson is making a case to earn a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. As of Monday, he ranks among the top-three rookie defensemen in assists (2nd), points (3rd), and plus-minus (2nd).
The Penguins lead the all-time series against Washington, 150-126-16. Washington, however, has won six of the last ten including the playoffs.
Olli Maatta (Upper-Body, IR)
Kris Letang (Upper-Body)
Bryan Rust (Long term)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term)
Matt Niskanen (Day-to-Day)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||12.5% (12th NHL)||80.0% (9th NHL)|
|New York Islanders||20.0% (8th NHL)||87.5% (4th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jared McCann||Sidney Crosby||Jake Guentzel|
|Bryan Rust||Evgeni Malkin||Phil Kessel|
|Dominik Simon||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Matt Cullen||Garrett Wilson|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Erik Gudbranson|