Penguins Room: ‘A Huge Goal’; Archibald Has Puncher’s Chance
There aren’t many things the Pittsburgh Penguins have done consistently well throughout this season.
One thing they have done on a fairly frequent basis is to allow seemingly comfortable leads to disappear in the third period.
They did it again Saturday night, when Washington rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the third period and seemed certain to escape PPG Paints Arena with at least one point until Evgeni Malkin salvaged the victory for the Penguins with an outstanding individual effort at 18:40 of the third period, stealing the puck in the neutral zone and bursting into the Capitals’ end before beating goalie Darcy Kuemper to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory.
But while the Penguins obviously were pleased and relieved to grab two points while denying Washington any — pushing the Capitals even further away from an Eastern Conference playoff berth — their penchant for late-game collapses has to be a concern.
Count Malkin among those who have noticed that it’s been happening with alarming regularity in 2022-23.
“We need to play better in the third period, for sure,” he said. “We lead, 3-0. Lots of drama in the third period. … Lots of games, we lead (by) two goals, three goals. … In the third period, maybe we think like, we need (to) win and we start thinking about points and we give them so much ice. … We need to play the same game, not change anything.”
Malkin might have helped to jump-start Washington’s comeback by taking a roughing minor at 4:20 of the third period, while the Pittsburgh Penguins were up, 3-0, and on a power play.
However, he atoned by scoring the game-winner, which was his 25th of the season but just his second in the past 14 games.
“It’s a huge goal for me,” Malkin said. “And two points for the team.”
Josh Archibald has appeared in 297 NHL games and, per HockeyFights.com, has been involved in just five fights.
And at 5-10, 176 pounds, he never is going to be mistaken for one of the league’s heavyweights.
But he is feisty, and when circumstances dictated that he drop the gloves with Capitals defenseman Rasmus Sandin near the Washington blue line, Archibald didn’t balk.
He landed a series of rights and eventually dragged Sandin to the ice. Both were assessed five-minute majors.
“Honestly, I don’t know (what caused it),” Archibald said. “There was a little scrum in the corner with (Washington center Evgeny) Kuznetsov and then we skated up the ice. We were talking back and forth and the next thing you know, we were fighting.”
Although he isn’t quite a novice when it comes to fisticuffs, Archibald acknowledged that fights don’t always end as well for him as the one with Sandin did.
“I’ve been in a few,” he said. “I think the last one was probably last year (against Tampa Bay defenseman Mikhail Sergachev). But it didn’t go my way.”
Casey DeSmith made 31 saves in the victory over Washington.
A number of them were spectacular, like when he rejected a shot by Capitals defenseman John Carlson from inside the left circle, after Carlson was given a cross-ice pass by Alex Ovechkin.
But it was his stop on an Ovechkin breakaway with 2:15 left in the second period that was the most memorable.
Ovechkin, whose third-period goal raised his career total to 822, relieved Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman P.O Joseph of the puck, then moved in on DeSmith unimpeded.
Ovechkin has an overpowering slap shot, but opted to drive to the net, only to have DeSmith stop his point-blank shot with his left skate.
“I was kind of reading ‘shot,’ considering how close the back-checker was,” DeSmith said. “He did a little pump fake there and got me down, but my leg was just long enough. I’m not very tall, but I got the one inch that I needed.”