The Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-1) penalty kill was again perfect until it wasn’t. Bad luck bit the Penguins as defenseman Kris Letang broke his stick on a third-period penalty kill. The result was an unchecked Tom Wilson, who neatly chipped the puck past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry for the game-winning goal as the Washington Capitals (10-5-4) beat the Penguins 5-2.
The Penguins are tied for the NHL lead with eight wins when tied or trailing after two periods and appeared on a course for their ninth until Wilson burned them again.
“The third (period) was a pretty good period for us. In the first two, (Washington) kind of out-competed us for a little bit there,” Mark Jankowski said. “We had good putback in the third. We ended up tying it. Unfortunately, they got that power-play goal…”
Carl Hagelin (2) scored the clinching empty-net goal after Letang’s stick broke again. Lars Eller (3) added a second empty netter.
Tristan Jarry stopped 30 of 33 shots. Washington goalie Vitek Vanecek grabbed 25 of 27 shots.
Early in the third period, the Penguins trailed by two and were again shorthanded. However, the Penguins penalty kill was again perfect. Not only did the Penguins allow only one shot on the two kills, but Brandon Tanev gave the Penguins a fighting chance.
Tanev (5) raced from the defensive zone on a two-on-one, held the puck until he pulled Vanecek out of position, and lit the lamp.
“I saw I had some space carrying the puck up the ice. I think Teddy (Blueger) did a great job pushing the defenseman back,” Tanev said. “It created more space for me. I was fortunate to put the puck on the net…”
Short-handed goals change games.
From the Art of War: A wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cart-load of the enemy’s provisions is equivalent to twenty of one’s own…
Didn’t think you’d get a Sun Tzu quote in the Pittsburgh Penguins postgame, did you?
Three minutes later, Penguins winger Jake Guentzel tied the game when he bolted from the right-wing corner to the net. Guentzel (7) stuffed it through Vanecek, who was spectacular until Tanevs goal.
“(Kris Letang) cycled it down. They like to play man-on-man, so I just tried to beat my guy,” Guentzel said. “It was a great play by (Kasperi Kapanen) to allow that lane for me to get to the front of the net.”
The Penguins trailed 2-0 after a couple of minutes into the third period. Penguins killer T.J. Oshie got past defenseman, Mike Matheson. Oshie elevated, literally, and while in mid-air was able to poke the puck past Jarry.
It was an almost perfectly even first period. The Penguins had a pair of power plays and kept the puck in the offensive zone for nearly every second, but Washington netted the only goal.
In a rare defensive mistake, Washington center Nicklas Backstrom gave the slip to Penguins center Teddy Blueger. Backstrom (9) deflected Nick Jensen’s hard pass.
Washington resumed their attempts to physically impose themselves on the Penguins, though it wasn’t all clean. Midway through the first-period Old nemesis Tom Wilson nailed center Mark Jankowski with a late hit.
The Penguins have four power-play chances and set up camp in the Washington zone but did not crack the scoreboard. Vanecek was impenetrable.
Washington fired 27 shots at Jarry, who was also brilliant. The shot total through two periods was more than Washington zipped towards Jarry in all three periods on Tuesday.
The Penguins PK again killed the only chance-against without allowing a shot. The Penguins killed three straight Washington power plays in the two-game series without allowing a shot on goal.
The Penguins had a trio of two-on-one rushes, including one created with a defensive effort by Evgeni Malkin and one short-handed.
Pittsburgh Penguins Talking points:
Gold Star: Tristan Jarry.
He kept the Penguins in the game and should have earned a point instead of three goals against. Jarry made a handful of 10-bell saves, including one on Lars Eller, who intercepted a pass just feet from the Penguins net.
The Penguins didn’t respond to Tom Wilson after the Capitals villain took a run at Jankowski. Perhaps they didn’t need a response, but the game log shows Washington enjoyed a burst of energy while the Penguins sagged for about 15 minutes.
The Penguins penalty killers also failed to give defenseman Kris Letang a stick on the game-winning goal sequence. Letang tried valiantly to defend in front of the net, but Letang couldn’t break up the pass to Wilson without a blade. It’s hockey 101 for a forward to quickly give a stick-less defenseman a twig,
“Obviously, we’d like to give him a stick in that situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case,” Tanev said. “They capitalized on the situation. It was a bad bounce.”
Little Things to watch:
The Penguins’ ability to get the puck to the net. They went to the greasy areas but were a heartbeat from a few goals until Guentzel buried his third period chance.
Update: Upon further review, perhaps the Penguins’ low game also contributed to Washington being able to play on the rush and generate pressure.
The Penguins really held onto pucks and worked to the low zone, almost defiantly of Washington’s physical presence. The Penguins cycled well, especially in the third period.