Both teams clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime. The extra point gave Washington its shove over the line, just as the two points gave the Penguins their magic number to clinch a 15th consecutive trip to Lord Stanley’s annual party.
It’s the eighth and final round between the Penguins and Capitals. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. in the Capital One Arena.
The Penguins survived Washington’s third period push and Tom Wilson’s goal with just 14 seconds remaining. The Penguins won for the fifth time in seven games against Washington, but while the Penguins are 5-2-0, Washington is 2-1-4.
Depth scoring continues to be a Penguins’ shining strength. Zach Aston-Reese and Frederick Gaudreau scored important goals, and Colton Sceviour had a pair of assists before Jake Guentzel scored the OT goals.
Washington pushed to a scoring chance advantage (56%-44%), but the Jeff Carter line with Kaperi Kapanen also popped a couple of goals.
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry won the goalie battle but was both brilliant and leaky. He stopped 33 of 37 shots. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan will announce his starting goalie before noon.
Evgeni Malkin was a full participant at the morning skate. Brandon Tanev continued to skate with a non-contact jersey. However, Evan Rodrigues, who is day-to-day after being hit on the foot by a shot on Thursday, did not skate.
Sullivan said Malkin was a game-time decision and Rodrigues will not play.
Washington captain Alex Ovechkin took the morning skate after missing the last three games, including his first missed Penguins-Capitals tilt. However, he didn’t take line rushes or participate in the power play drills, according to NHL.com reporter Tom Gulitti.
Ilya Samsonov was reportedly the first goalie off the ice, and it appears he will get the start vs. the Penguins.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Daniel Sprong||Evgeny Kuznetsov||Tom Wilson|
|Anthony Mantha||Nicklas Backstrom||T.J. Oshie|
|Conor Sheary||Lars Eller||Michael Raffl|
|Carl Hagelin||Nic Dowd||Garnet Hathaway|
|Dmitry Orlov||John Carlson|
|Brenden Dillon||Justin Schultz|
|Zdeno Chara||Nick Jensen|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
What to Watch
This could be a fun one. The teams have no pressure, only their mutual dislike and first place at stake.
Washington was conservative but characteristically coughed up too many pucks. The Penguins transition game was razor-sharp and converted three Capitals turnovers into goals.
Washington’s 1-3-1 LW lock was conservative, which kept the Penguins off the rush game, and the Penguins didn’t get to the cycle game, either.
The Penguins were not tight in their defensive zone, either. There was plenty of room for improvement, including by the Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby. Crosby’s line has been a bit off for a week or so.
However, given the lowered stakes of the game, expect a looser game with plenty of intensity. This could be fun, or both teams will try to make a defensive point. Your guess as to which game we’ll see is as good as mine.
The Capitals will likely be without John Carlson and Ovechkin, and the Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev.
“We’ve got decisions to make,” Washington Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Evgeni Malkin (22 consecutive, 22 total)
F Brandon Tanev (12 consecutive, 18 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 254
-The Penguins are 5-2-0 against Washington this season, including a 2-1-0 record at Capital One Arena.
-The Penguins have earned points in 10 of their last 12 games (9-2-1).
-Jeff Carter has five points (3-2-5) in nine games with the Penguins since the Penguins acquired him from the LA Kings.
-Jake Guentzel finished April with 19 points (9-10-19) in 15 games. His 19 points tied Sidney Crosby (2006, 19), Jaromir Jagr (1995, 19), and Mario Lemieux (1993, 19) as the team record for points in April.
-In his career, Kasperi Kapanen has been a Capitals killer. In 14 games, he has 10 points (5-5-10).
Penguins Taxi Squad:
D – Juuso Riikola D – Yannick Weber G – Emil Larmi G – Maxime Lagace
How to Watch
(TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL Network; Radio: 105.9 The X)