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Penguins Room: Momentum Shift, DeSmith Got His ‘Mind Right’ in SO Loss



Pittsburgh Penguins, Casey DeSmith

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pittsburgh Penguins clawed back into the game after being bombarded with 23 shots in the first period. They ripped 18 shots on Washington Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper in the second period, but another gaffe in the third period again put them behind the eight-ball.

Facing another loss to a playoff-caliber team, the Penguins rallied to force overtime and survived a Washington power play in OT, but Evgeni Kuznetsov’s slow … slow …ssssllooowwww shootout goal followed by Nick Backstrom’s successful attempt delivered a 3-2 win SO win to the Capitals.

Kuznetsov took about 10 seconds to get from the blue line to the goal.

“Yeah, it’s a good move. I mean, he can shoot at any time,” DeSmith said. “He can hold it. He could make multiple moves. I mean, it’s definitely tough.”

The Washington TV broadcast counted 21 moves.

It was otherwise a typical Penguins-Capitals battle but with fewer scraps. Perhaps each side is getting a little softer in their old age.

Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal. Sidney Crosby led the Penguins with four shots, but only Danton Heinen and Bryan Rust scored. Casey DeSmith was significantly better Thursday but dropped to the butterfly too early on one third period shot which gave Marcus Johansson far too much net to hit.

And Johansson did.

DeSmith stopped 43 of 45 shots.

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The Penguins’ five-game points appeared to be headed for an ignominious end, but Rust’s goal with seven minutes remaining kept the “streak” intact, though the Penguins are 3-0-3 in their last six.

Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room:

The Washington visitor’s room is about the size of your living room. Maybe smaller. With a quick bus, and negative result, there wasn’t as much time or space to grab players postgame.

But the Penguins’ first star narrowly avoided being the first goat. Casey DeSmith was increasingly good, but gave far too much net the Capitals’ third period goal by Johansson.

DeSmith stopped 22 of 23 shots in the first period.

“It always helps when you have a solid first with a lot of shots to kind of get your head into it, get your mind right.”

Casey DeSmith:


Bryan Rust:

The Penguins winger had a goal, two shots, and four hits. He also played two minutes shorthanded — the Penguins’ penalty kill was very good on the second and third Capitals’ power plays, even if they committed the cardinal sin on the first.

Rust was visibly one of the Penguins’ best forwards. He didn’t hesitate to skate the puck forward as Washington blanketed Jason Zucker and Evgeni Malkin. Rust pushed the puck when Malkin and Zucker couldn’t (which was often).


Mike Sullivan:

The Penguins coach wasn’t long-winded Thursday, but not because he was angry with his team. We’re just out of things to ask, quite frankly.

The Penguins are not busting up opponents when they lock down the front of the net, as the Capitals did. The Penguins PK has fallen from top-three to nearly out of the top 10 in the span of a few weeks. While Sullivan and coach Mike Vellucci slyly removed Alex Ovechkin from the equation, the Penguins PK did leave Ovechkin wide open inside the dot on the first power play.

The Penguins’ effort was there, even if they lacked the finer details to rack up scoring chances or a lead.

“You know, there were momentum swings back and forth. I thought they had a good first period. I thought we got a pretty good second period,” said Sullivan. “In the third period, there were momentum swings on both sides. The penalty kill did a terrific job in overtime to get us to the shootout, to give us an opportunity.”