The Pittsburgh Penguins felt they did some good things during their season-opening loss to Chicago Tuesday evening, and that was a fair point.
(Especially if you look past a few niggling details, like how the rebuilding Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals after the Penguins built a 2-0 lead.)
But the Penguins did a lot more things well during their visit to Capital One Arena in Washington Friday night, and it was reflected in the outcome, a 4-0 victory. And some of their most prominent players turned in the strongest performances.
*** Evgeni Malkin scored one goal and set up the other three. It was his 29th career game with four or more points.
*** Sidney Crosby scored two goals, both on the power play, to swell his total for the season to three. That’s a 123-goal pace over an 82-game season. Oh, and he also won 15 of 21 faceoffs.
*** Jake Guentzel had a pair of assists.
*** Tristan Jarry stopped 19 shots to record the shutout, his 14th in the NHL.
Malkin had the best scoring chance for either team during the opening period, when he picked off a Washington pass in the left circle but couldn’t beat Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren from directly in front of the net. Malkin put his stick between his legs and tried to flip the puck past Lindgren, but was denied.
Washington got the only power play of the opening 20 minutes, when Rickard Rakell was penalized for tripping T.J. Oshie at 16:39, but the Penguins’ penalty-kill limited the Capitals to one shot on Tristan Jarry.
That stretched the Penguins’ streak of successful kills to start the season to five.
Malkin got another quality scoring chance just over four minutes into the second period, and made the most of it.
He was in the slot and took a pass from Rickard Rakell before throwing a shot past Lindgren at 4:07 for his first of the season. Erik Karlsson picked up the second assist, his first point with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Capitals defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was called for hooking Jake Guentzel at 5:04, and the Penguins needed just 47 seconds to record their first power-play goal of the season.
Crosby scored it from in front of the net after Guentzel fed him a pass from the right side of the crease. Crosby’s shot glanced off the stick of Washington defenseman John Carlson on its way to the back of the net.
Capitals forward Connor McMichael nearly cut the Penguins’ lead in half around the middle of the period, but his shot slammed off the right post. Shortly thereafter, Washington defenseman Rasmus Sandin went off for slashing Lars Eller.
Crosby made the Capitals pay again, one-timing a feed from Malkin past Lindgren from the bottom of the right circle for his third of the season.
Lindgren prevented Washington from totally unraveling by stopping a turning shot from Reilly Smith at 14:41, but Jarry one-upped him little more than a minute later, stopping Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway.
Malkin came within a few inches of getting his fourth point of the net early in the third, when he hit the right post during the Penguins’ third power play of the game.
The Penguins’ penalty-killers ran their record for the season to 7-for-7, shutting down the Capitals’ power play after Eller was called for hooking at 8:46. Washington was held to two shots on goal during its three chances with the extra man.
Reilly Smith sealed the victory with just over three minutes to go in regulation, putting a shot over Lindgren’s glove for his first with the Penguins. Malkin, as usual on this night, picked up the assist.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1) will face Calgary Saturday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.