The Pittsburgh Penguins outshot the Washington Capitals by a wide margin, 36-23. The Penguins squashed the Washington attack for literally one-third of the game as Washington didn’t have an even strength shot of goal for nearly 20 minutes. Still, the Washington Capitals powered past the Penguins 5-3 at Capital One Arena on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was red-faced angry. On Sunday, he praised his team despite the Penguins third straight loss. There was something different on Sunday. The Penguins were present. They did not no-show as they did on Thursday night in a 4-0 loss to Toronto. And they were not a hot mess as they were on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Buffalo.
“I think we’ve been getting better, trending in the right direction over the last couple,” goalie Matt Murray said. “We were probably the better team tonight, so we have to take the positives that we can.”
However, Murray also conceded he could have changed the game.
“I’ll take the blame. If I make the save on that breakaway by (Tom) Wilson, it’s a different game,” Murray said.
Murray had some competition when taking the blame. Defenseman Marcus Pettersson was burned not once, but twice. First, Pettersson was a bystander as Washington forward Jaku Vrana grabbed a loose puck and raced past Pettersson for a breakaway.
“It was kind of a broken play. I thought it was going to come out from the faceoff a little bit harder. I didn’t know if I was going to play it or back off. He’s fast, but I have to play it better,” Pettersson said.
Then Pettersson was paralyzed by indecision at the offensive blue line, and Wilson had that long breakaway that Murray wanted to stop.
“I need to play better. Move the puck a little bit earlier. I tried to do too much,” Pettersson admitted.
Head coach Mike Sullivan took more positives from the game.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t get the result, but I thought we played a much better hockey game,” Sullivan said.”It’s always a competitive game. They’re a good team. We’re a good team, but I really liked our game. I thought we played on our toes. We were skating, we moved our feet. The power play was good. We didn’t score, but we did everything but score. So, there was a lot to like about this game, and that’s what I told the guys.”
Philadelphia is just three points behind the Penguins. Columbus, Carolina, and the New York Islanders are six points behind.
Sullivan also wasn’t having any of Murray’s blame.
“We win as a team and lose as a team. that’s the way it is,” Sullivan commanded. “Everyone takes ownership for their own game. I appreciate Matt certainly taking ownership of his game, but we all–we’re in this together.”
On paper, Murray didn’t have a good day. He stopped only 18 of 22 shots, but those stats don’t factor the breakaways and scrums in front in which the Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen failed to protect Murray. Or the Washington goal in which the Penguins defenders impeded Murray from making a save.
Murray had upped his stats from the Nov.-Dec. swoon. However, after Sunday, Murray’s stats dipped to a 2.84 GAA, and just a .901 save percentage.
“What I did like was (Murray’s compete and battle level, and his focus. I thought he was competing hard,” Sullivan said.
The Pittsburgh Penguins begin a three-game west coast road trip on Wednesday in LA, followed by Anaheim and San Jose. The Penguins probably hope the next game doesn’t have players taking the blame.