Attention rest of the National Hockey League…
Here’s Johnny, indeed.
Evgeni Malkin and Phill Kessel scored two times a piece and Sidney Crosby picked up two assists as the Penguins never trailed in a 7-4 win over the Metro leading Washington Capitals.
Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin, and Patric Hornqvist added the others as the Pens pulled within four points of the Caps with a lot of games left to play. The Pens however, have played two more games than Washington. In fact, Pittsburgh has played more games than most of the division, so winning games is essential in the stretch run.
Hornqvist would not finish the game as he was injured in the third period on a clean hit by Brooks Orpik at the blue-line. It was one of the FEW clean things the Caps did on the evening.
Tom Wilson would continue his quest in becoming Matt Cooke as he left his feet in the first period to hit Ian Cole in the head. Cole would miss the remainder of the first in concussion protocol before returning.
Add to that, TJ Oshie would cross check Kris Letang in his surgically repaired neck during a tussle in the second. Early Saturday morning, Oshie was fined $5,000 by the NHL Player Safety Department.
Also, early on Saturday, the Penguins would recall Zach Aston-Reese from Wilkes Barre. Reese was a college free agent that the organization hoped would fit the Hornqvist mold when they signed him. Count me in as excited to watch his debut against the Devils on Saturday evening.
The Pens would strike for the first two goals as Kessel would be on the receiving end of a Riley Sheahan pass and have an easy tap-in at the side of the net just 2:11 in.
Two-time Stanley Cup champion and poker player extraordinaire Phil Kessel is two points behind Kucherov for the NHL scoring lead.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) February 3, 2018
Then with under five minutes to go in the period, Carl Hagelin would intercept a terrible D to D pass in the offensive zone before quickly Braden Holtby to double the lead.
But in typical Caps/Pens fashion, Washington would not go away. Alex Ovechkin would make a nice individual effort on a three-on-two, beating Brian Dumoulin down his wing and getting to the front of the net. His shot would be stopped by Matt Murray, but it would kick off of Dumoulin and go into the net to cut the lead in half.
Pittsburgh would carry over power play time as Chandler Stephenson would be called for a trip later in the first.
It would prove costly as Hornqvist re-established the two-goal lead just :26 seconds into the second. A beautiful triangle tic-tac-toe setup rom Crosby and Malkin left Holtby moving and guessing way too much.
Again, the Caps would respond, amidst the physical play picking up. First Dimitry Orlov would blow a slapper past Murray from the far face off circle, and then Evgeni Kuznetsov would find a loose puck in the slot after an obvious hand pass by Tom Wilson went uncalled.
A lot of people on social media were wondering when Ryan Reaves was going to step up and retaliate for the hits by Wilson and Oshie. We’ve seen Reaves do this in the past, and in fact in the first period he laid a big check on Ovi that was border line interference after Wilson hit Letang and Crosby on the same shift
.The problem is that with the Penguins still chasing points and teams in the division and conference, it would be detrimental to have Reaves take an extra penalty in what, at-the-time, was a 3-3 game. You have to know your spots to pick.
There will come another time where Reaves will cash in his ‘receipt’ on the Caps.
The patience would pay off as in the final frame the Penguins made it hurt on the scoreboard. Evgeni Malkin would again get an early period Pittsburgh goal as he collected his own rebound and beat Holtby five-hole as Pittsburgh regained the lead 4-…..
Alex Ovechkin answered right away as he was left alone to the left of Murray in his normal spot. Murray sprawled in vain as i was easy pickings for Ovi’s league-leading 32nd of the year and second of the game just :49 seconds after Geno.
What looked to be a tight finish and possibly extra time would quickly turn in the favor of Pittsburgh. And it would be their power play that carried them.
First, Bryan Rust would get a goal with the second power play unit on the ice as he cleaned up a point shot from Kris Letang at 6:08. And then…
— NHL (@NHL) February 3, 2018
This marked the end of Holtby’s night as he just LOOKED like he knew the train was coming. Not only for this night…
…but for the rest of the Spring too.
The Penguins are to the Capitals, what the Patriots are to the Steelers. Bigger brother, little brother.
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 3, 2018
Malkin would add another PPG at PPG at the 10 minute mark, and the Caps would go quietly into the night.
Pittsburgh would go 3-for-4 on the man-advantage while Washington was 0-for-3.
Matt Murray would make 29 saves and while it wasn’t his cleanest of games, a win is a win is a win.
Crosby pushed his point streak to 11 games but failed to collect his 400th goal again. He’ll try again Saturday night in NJ.
For all you Twitter followers remember #Sid400..
Conor Sheary would be placed on IR as he is week-to-week with a lower body injury. This allowed Reaves to draw back into the lineup. The injury to Hornqvist comes at a time when the offense is rolling along like it was the 1980’s all over again.
Pittsburgh is now 10-3 since January 1st. At that point in time, they were sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference. Now, no one wants to see them on the schedule.
Riley Sheahan finished with two assists and looks to be developing quickly into a legit 3rd line or bottom six center.
Jamie Oleksiak again with a strong game, and making GM Jim Rutherford look like a genius with his physical play and smarts with the puck are showing why he is a former first round draft pick.
Carter Rowney returned and played 9:05 after missing the last month due to injury.
Stay tuned for our coverage of Pens and Devils and my post game article on Sunday Morning.
Thank you for reading!