The Runner Sports

Capitals Stymied By Penguins

The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are no strangers to each other. Together, these teams make up one of the most heated rivalries in the NHL. Their last meeting saw the Capitals eliminated from the playoffs. Wednesday night marked another chapter in their history as the Capitals hosted Pittsburgh in a thrilling Game 7 rematch. Yet again, the Capitals found themselves on the losing side, falling to Pittsburgh 3-2.

How It Happened: Pittsburgh jumped on top 1-0 on an early Kris Letang power-play goal. Letang put a backhander past Braden Holtby during a net-mouth scramble for the puck. Patric Hornqvist scored a second period power-play goal in his season debut, following offseason hand surgery, for a 2-0 Pittsburgh lead. Later in the period, the Caps finally got on the board with help from a fresh face. Rookie defender Christian Djoos scored his first career goal to cut the deficit to 2-1. Pittsburgh went up 3-1 when Justin Schultz connected with Conor Sheary on a slick third period power-play goal. Alex Ovechkin made it 3-2 with a tap-in goal but that’s all the offense the Capitals could muster in the final period.

Takeaways

The Djoos Got Loose

Christian Djoos joins a host of young Capitals players making their NHL debuts this season. Taking the place of Taylor Chorney on Washington’s third defensive pairing, Djoos stood out in his first game. His first career goal came on a hard one-time slapshot that dipped off the glove of Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray. Later in the game, he made a pretty pass to Ovechkin’s third period goal for his second career point. Djoos also showed his impressive skating ability working alongside Aaron Ness. It’s only one game but Djoos has a nice little foundation to build on going forward.

Braden Holtby Keeps Washington Alive

Despite being the losing netminder, Holtby was a big reason why the Capitals didn’t trail by a bigger deficit. He made several big saves that kept the Capitals in the game, making 33 saves on 36 shots. Holtby even got clipped in the head by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby but it didn’t seem to affect him during the course of the game. Holtby is now 2-1 this season with a save percentage of .925 and a 2.62 goals against average.

Penalties Abound

Simply put, the Capitals spent way too much time in the penalty box. They were whistled for six penalties including two penalties by defenseman Matt Niskanen. This led to Pittsburgh scoring on three of their six power-play chances. It’s not surprising the Capitals lost given how often they were shorthanded.

Power Play Sputters

With their struggles on the penalty kill, the Capitals needed success on the power play. They didn’t have any against Pittsburgh. The Capitals didn’t score on any of their four power-play opportunities. This is due to the aggressive nature of Pittsburgh’s penalty kill. They were quick to attack the puck carrier, leading to multiple turnovers and very little Capitals zone time. This was their recipe for success against the Capitals in the playoffs and it worked yet again.

Number Eight for the Great Eight

Alex Ovechkin always comes to play when Pittsburgh’s on the docket and he was a force for the Capitals on Wednesday night. He scored his league-leading eighth goal of the year and had a game-high seven shots on goal. Ovechkin narrowly missed having a second goal but he sent the puck just over the top of the net. He continues to have a strong start to the season and shows no signs of slowing down.

What’s Next: The Capitals will head out to Newark for a matchup with the high-flying New Jersey Devils on Friday night. The Devils are 3-0 to start the season, led by rookie Nico Hischier and former Capital Marcus Johansson.

Andrew Markowitz

Longtime Capitals fan hoping to see a Stanley Cup parade in D.C. this year...or at least once in my life

Latest posts by Andrew Markowitz (see all)