The Washington Capitals laid siege to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period, not even a late third period goal by Penguins winger Brandon Tanev could quell the Washington tidal wave. Moments after Tanev scored to give the Penguins a 4-2 lead, Lars Eller scored his second goal of the game and not a single seatback was used at the Capital One Center.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray was the ultimate difference between winning and losing as the Penguins recently maligned goalie recaptured his big-game form and the Penguins survived the Washington onslaught with a 4-3 win.
Washington outshot the Penguins 13-5 in the third period but numbers can be deceiving. It appeared to be 100-1. The Penguins (33-14-5) closed to within four points of Washington (35-13-5) at the top of the Metro Division.
“We were on our heels quite a bit. They had the majority of the momentum,” Jack Johnson said. “We finally got a couple of shifts down in their end and “Tanner” scored. We definitely need to do a better job when they put on the push.”
After the teams were done trading power plays and penalties, the Penguins and Washington traded three goals in two minutes in the middle of the first period. Washington grinder Lars Eller struck first. A couple of Penguins defensive zone coverages, including one by Jared McCann, left Eller open in the slot. Eller (12) roofed a wrist shot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
One minute later, a Penguins grinder tied the game. Recently recalled Sam Lafferty intercepted an errant breakout pass at center ice and took advantage of the sagging Washington defenders. Lafferty (5) fooled Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov with a high, short side wrister.
“It’s about playing the right way and back to the basics of what makes me tick as a player,” Lafferty said of his hopes to stick in the lineup.
And 40 seconds after the Penguins tied the game, they went ahead went Patric Hornqvist (12) deftly tipped a soft shot meant for his blade by John Marino.
The Penguins unleashed the hounds on the forecheck. The Penguins forced Washington into 10 first-period turnovers.
Midway through the second period, Penguins winger Dominik Simon was the glad recipient of one of the Washington whoops. After McCann pressured the Washington defensemen into a turnover, then won a puck battle behind the net. Sidney Crosby got the first shot, which Samsonov stopped, but Simon (5) pulled the rebound around Samsonov for a two-goal lead.
The Penguins peppered Samsonov with 16 shots in the second period and generally had the better of play.
After a couple of thundering hits by Tom Wilson, the Washington team and crowd sprang to life. Washington bombarded the Penguins for the first half of the third period. And Wilson hit everything that moved. The powerful Wilson had 13 hits.
“As a hockey player, you want to be in those kind of games. Meaningful, against a division rival,” Sidney Crosby said. “I think guys get up for that. There’s enough guys around who have played in these games for a long time and for the new guys they get a feel right away for the intensity and emotion of the game.”
Eventually, Evgeny Kuznetsov (18) converted a few failed Penguins clearing attempts when he barged to the Penguins net and his backhander deflected off defenseman John Marino.
In the final three minteus, Penguins winger Brandon Tanev (11) scored a fluky goal which deflected off Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov. However, just 18 seconds later, Eller scored to keep the pressure on the Penguins.
Murray made 29 saves on 32 shots and was easily the Penguins top player. Samsonov stopped 29 of 33 shots.