The Pittsburgh Penguins (39-21-6) were badly outplayed by the Washington Capitals (40-20-7) in the second half of their first meeting but won. The Penguins outplayed Washington in their second meeting but lost. Welcome to Round 3 of the Metro Division heavyweight battle between three of the last four Stanley Cup winners and perennial division titans. The Penguins trail Washington and the Philadelphia Flyers by only three points in the division.
For such an important battle, the puck will drop at an unseemly 1 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins and Washington recent struggles allowed the red-hot Flyers back into the division race. Philadelphia has won eight in a row. This week, the Penguins ended their six-game losing streak with wins over Ottawa and Buffalo. Washington has lost 10 of their last 15 (5-9-1).
The Penguins are expected to start Matt Murray in goal because it’s both a big game and because Murray has won two in a row. Murray stole two points when the Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, 4-2. Murray stopped 28 of 30 shots. UPDATE: Head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed it will be Murray in net.
Patric Hornqvist (16, 17) scored two goals, Marcus Pettersson and Sidney Crosby scored by the Penguins.
On Thursday night, Washington was burned by Mika Zibanejad who scored five goals in the New York Rangers 6-5 OT win at Madison Square Garden. Alex Ovechkin scored two goals, which were the 704th and 705th of his NHL career. Ilya Samson started in net for Washington and allowed six goals on 39 shots.
The Penguins-Washington battles are often defined by the strength vs. strength top-line matchups as Sidney Crosby usually battles Niklas Backstrom, with T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana. Washington is one of the few teams in the NHL which may boast a better second line than the Penguins. Evgeny Kuznetsov centers Ovechkin and Tom Wilson.
This season, Crosby is a minus-3 against Washington in the first two games.
The Penguins and Capitals met twice in February, but both games occurred before the NHL trade deadline. This will be the first time each team sees the other finished product. The Penguins will face Ilya Kovalchuk, and Washington will face Patrick Marleau, Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues for the first time.
The Washington Capitals stormed the Penguins in the second and third periods of the first meeting. The Penguins survived with a 4-3 win, but those two points were largely the result of a stellar performance by goalie Matt Murray. Washington scored three of the final four goals and dominated the puck.
The Penguins outskated Washington and won the forecheck battle, but made several crucial mistakes. Washington put those mistakes in the Penguins net.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|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|
Philadelphia Flyers Lines
|Claude Giroux||Sean Couturier||Jakub Voracek|
|Joel Farabee||Kevin Hayes||Travis Konecny|
|James Van Riemsdyk||Nolan Patrick||Nicolas Aube-Kubel|
|Oskar Lindblom||Scott Laughton||Wade Allison|
|Ivan Provorov||Justin Braun|
|Travis Sanheim||Philippe Myers|
|Shayne Gostisbehere||Robert Hagg|
|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|
-The Pittsburgh Penguins are 7-4-0 in their last 11 games against the Capitals. In four of those 11 games, Pittsburgh scored five or more goals
- The Penguins begin their 14th set of back-to-back games in 2019-20. So far, Pittsburgh is 12-13-1 in back to backs (6-6-1 the first night; 6-7-0 the second night).
Justin Schultz has more points against the Capitals (19GP, 3G-13A-16PTS) than any other team, which includes multiple points in two of his last four games (4A total)
Ovechkin is now three goals shy of reaching the 50 goal mark for the ninth time in his career, where he would join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy as the only players in NHL history with nine 50-goal seasons.
Ilya Kovalchuk recorded three points (1g, 2a) against the New York Rangers on Thursday, marking his first goal as a Capital and his second three-point game of the season (Oct. 8 at Calgary as a member of the Los Angeles Kings).
With his goal, Kovalchuk scored his 289th career goal at even strength and passed Alex Kovalev (288) for the fourth-most even strength goals by a Russian born player in NHL history.