Observations from the Penguins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals in Game 1:
First things first, left winger Chris Kunitz left the game in overtime after he was struck on the left side of his head by a puck while sitting on the bench. He did not return from the dressing room. Head coach Mike Sullivan did not have an update on his status.
This game came down to mistakes and who could convert most of those into goals. So much of the offense in this game came directly as a result of a turnover or some bad coverage in the defensive zone. Perhaps both teams were a bit rusty after having not played since the weekend. Each team was sloppy. The Penguins just happened to be sloppier.
The physical toll the Capitals extracted on the Penguins appeared to be part of that. It's no secret that the Capitals play physical while the Penguins are a fast team. Predictably, the Capitals had the edge in physical play and they seemed to create some turnovers or puck possession with their hitting and even rattled them on a few occasions.
If there's a positive sign to this game, it's that the Penguins didn't play their best game by a mile and they still went toe-to-toe with the NHL's top team (in the regular season) in their barn and lost in overtime.
Center Matt Cullen summed things up well:
“It's a matter I think of I think just getting to our 60-minute game. We didn't have it, a complete night tonight. It wasn't a disaster. It wasn't our best. It wasn't our worst. It just wasn't good enough.”
The Capitals struck first at 10:13 of the first period. Following an offensive zone turnover by center Evgeni Malkin, former Erie Otters left winger Andre Burakovsky led a rush up the right wing. He gained the offensive zone and fed a centering pass to left winger Jason Chimera. In the slot. Chimera directed a somewhat pedestrian wrister on net which goaltender Matt Murray rejected with his left leg but allowed a rebound. As defenseman Brian Dumoulin tripped and slid into a prone Murray, Burakovsky followed up on the rebound and plunked it into the open cage from the right of the crease. Assists went to Chimera and defenseman John Carlson.
A brilliant individual effort by center Nick Bonino led to the Penguins tying the game. Taking a touch pass from left winger Carl Hagelin, Bonino rushed the puck through the neutral zone and crossed over Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov so badly he ended up colliding with defensive partner Nate Schmidt. Bonino attacked the net and lifted a forehand shot which was rejected by goaltender Braden Holtby. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy followed up the play and plunked in the rebound by Holtby's right leg. Assists went to Bonino and Hagelin.
The Penguins took their first lead 57 seconds later. Off a cycle, Malkin jumped over the boards and took a pass from Kunitz cycling off the right wing corner. Malkin took the pass on his forehand, rushed into the right circle, waited for Capitals center Mike Richards to collide with defenseman Brooks Orpik and roofed a wrister by Holtby's glove hand on the near side. Kunitz and defenseman Kris Letang got assists.
The Capitals tied the game at 12:10 mark with some speed. After defenseman Olli Maatta fumbled a puck at Washington's right point, right winger T.J. Oshie chipped it up ice and created his own breakaway. Attacking the net off the right wing, he lifted a wrister from the right circle by Murray's glove hand on the near side. The goal was unassisted.
Washington regained the lead 3:23 into the second period thanks to Oshie once again. Left winger Alex Ovechkin raced into the offensive zone on the left wing and had a wrister from the left circle blocked by defenseman Trevor Daley. Ovechkin settled the rebound and fed it to Oshie who surged by a flat-footed left winger Conor Sheary as well as a poke check from Maatta and shuffled a backhander under Murray's right leg. Ovechkin had the only assist.
The second line tied the game again, 3-3, at 8:42 of the third period. After Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom fumbled a puck on his own right half wall, right winger Phil Kessel played it deep to the end boards. Hagelin controlled the puck and fed it to Bonino in the right circle. Bonino ripped a wrister which appeared to glance off the skate of Schmidt and past Holtby's right skate. Assists wen to Hagelin and Kessel.
The game moved to overtime where the pace was pretty frantic. It ended at the 9:33 mark when Oshie completed his hat trick. Oshie entered the offensive zone on the right wing, cut across the slot, fended off a stick check from Dumoulin, veered around the back of the net and tucked in by Murray's right skate. A lengthy review ensued and the unassisted goal counted:
-The Penguins' defense had issues much of the night. The second pairing of Daley and Dumoulin was on the ice for the first and final goals. They mixed and matched a bit with the Letang-Maatta pairing but that didn't seem to help matters. The Penguins could consider a lineup change on the blue line heading into Game 2.
-Maatta continued to struggle. He just looked slow. Not just his foot speed but his reaction to some plays. It continues to be a problem.
-Letang wasn't even immune has he stumbled and allowed Ovechkin to attempt an unsuccessful breakaway in the third period.
-Murray was strong once again. He wasn't perfect. He could have made a save on Oshie's first two goals. He seemed to make a save on Oshie's third goal. But he flat out stole some goals, including on a pair of breakaways. He played well enough to win.
-The Penguins' best line was the second line of Bonino, Kessel and Hagelin. They seemed to take advantage of the Capitals directing most of their defensive attention at the Penguins' top line.
-The top line of center Sidney Crosby, Sheary and right winger Patric Hornqvist was underwhelming. Additionally, it was on the ice for Washington's final three goals. They need to rebound for Game 2.
-Malkin had an up and down game. He had a turnover leading to Burakovsky's goal then he gave them a lead with a wicked backhander. Additionally he took a penalty, albeit under questionable circumstances (see below).
-Malkin and Capitals right winger Tom Wilson had issues in the second period. That led to Wilson being nabbed for a cross check and Malkin getting tagged for embellishment:
-There was a strange sequence in the second period when Letang's stick got stuck behind the visor of Capitals center Jay Beagle. Beagle seemed so bewildered by the predicament and simply skated to the bench to have it removed:
-Later in the third, Wilson escaped penalty for this low knee-on-knee hit against Sheary:
-We'd be surprised if the NHL took action regarding supplemental discipline. Letang swung a stick at Rangers left winger Viktor Stalberg's head in Game 3 of the first round and extracted three teeth. That play got nothing. Sheary was apparently healthy after the hit and never left the game.
-To his credit, Sheary kept going to the high traffic areas and battled hard after the hit. He's got some serious guts.
-For all the attention the likes of Ovechkin, centers Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Oshie kind of gets forgotten about on his own team from those looking from the outside. He's an Olympic star but he's barely even one of his team's four most notable players. Yet he came up in a big moment tonight and led his team to a win.
-As mentioned above, the Capitals really took it to the Penguins physically. They led the hit totals, 43-29. We rarely put much value into the hit statistic, but just to he naked eye, the Capitals won this battle.
-Orpik returned to the lineup after missing three games due to a suspected head injury. He looked solid. he saw a ton of top minutes against the Penguins' better players and played a fairly crisp game outside of Malkin's goal. He didn't seem to have any lingering effects from his ailment.
-Orlov pretty much got benched after the Lovejoy goal. He finished with 5:28 of ice time in an overtime game.
-Holtby is going to be a much stiffer challenge than Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. That was abundantly clear in this game.
-Murray seemed to doubt the validity of the officials' call on Oshie's overtime goal:
“He made a good play. He had a little bit of time and space when he was driving wide. So I had to respect the shot and try to stay aggressive. I did that. I thought I beat him to the post and apparently the puck crossed the line. So that's about it.”
-Defenseman Ian Cole looked at the big picture:
“Our goal is to - the first two [games] when you're away to start [the series] – you want to get one in their building and take home ice away. There's still the opportunity to do that. I thought we played a great game today. Little things that we probably want to clean up but for the most part, I think we were in a good spot going to [overtime]. I mean, a tied game against the best team in the NHL going to [overtime] in their building, that's a good spot to be in the playoffs. Obviously we would like a better outcome but I think we played a good game. Had plenty of chances to score and had plenty of chances to win that game."
-Bonino talked about the pace of the game:
“Back and forth, up and down. That's playoff hockey with two good, deep teams. We didn't' get the outcome we wanted but that's the game you're going to see for how many games it goes.”
-Cullen spoke about the Capitals' being opportunistic:
“I think that's something you expect the way that they can play. You have to be smart with the puck and not give them any opportunities. I thought we did for stretches. I thought we did a good job of managing it but again, we had a few stretches where we didn't manage it and we end up in our end for stretches of time which takes away from our game. There's some areas we can clean up for sure."
-Cole talked about his former Blues teammate Oshie:
"He's an extremely talented player. I can't say enough good things about him as a person or as a player. We just need to be aware when he's out there. He can create a lot of stuff. He has the ability to create chances for his linemates. I think you see that. But I don't think we play him any different from the game plan going in. I think we just need to continue to be hard, take away his space and try to make those plays tough for him. You can see when he has time and space around the net, he has some really quick hand and can finish them off.”
-Oshie was team-first:
“It's cool to get the hat trick and score the overtime winner but right now, we have team goals. Not individual ones.
-Cole talked about the Wilson-Sheary hit:
“[Sheary] kind of tipped the puck in and ducked to get away and Wilson was coming out an stuck his legs out. No one likes to see that but it is playoff hockey so you've just got to play right through it. You've got to keep going. There's going to be those kinds of hits, those kinds of plays all over the ice. Obviously, they're going to try to get in guys heads and continue to hit them. We're going to continue to play hard as well. We're going to have to be a team that doesn't get sidetracked by that. Just goes right through it and continues to play. And I think we did a good job of that.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he didn't see the Wilson-Sheary hit:
“I'm sort of blank on that one because I really didn't see it. I think that hit was right by the benches. Everybody was standing up. I didn't see it. I can't say a whole a lot about it. I can't comment on it because I didn't see it.”
Trotz talked about winning the physical battle.
I think we're a bigger team. I know we're a bigger team and we're best when we play with our size and weight. I thought we were a little bit light at times. Especially though the middle [period]. You've got to use your assets. If we're going to have puck possession, we're going to have to do it with our size. We're going to have to go to the net. We're going to have to do all the things we do well.”
-Cole expects things to get nastier:
“Anytime you're playing a team over and over, guys are going to continue to feed off that and there's going to be more and more animosity built up over the series. In a seven-game series, that builds up quickly. I'm sure the intensity, the battle level, everything will increase as the series goes on."
-Cullen talked about the ice getting sloppy later:
“That's uncommon in the playoffs. It's warming up everywhere. The ice gets a little bit softer everywhere. I didn't feel like it was a major issue. It affects everybody."
-Cole dismissed any suggestion that his team was rusty:
“I thought we came out really well. I think the first five, 10 minutes there, we really handled the play. We just needed to sustain that through the course of the first period. I think we kind of maybe backed off a little bit there it seemed like. But it seems as the game went on, we fell right in there and continued to take it too them. I don't think there was too much regarding that, no.”
-Trotz talked about benching Orlov:
“I thought it was a pretty basic play. It was a one-on-three out and all of a sudden they get a breakaway out of it. Mistakes like that can't happen.”
-Trotz was asked about Ovechkin seeing a lot of Letang during the game:
“I don't think [Ovechkin] goes into any game and doesn't get a lot of attention. They wanted Letang against him. We're okay with that. One thing when I learned when I came here, I said, 'Ovie, maybe some games we'll manage you against different people and maybe take you off and give you better match-ups.' He doesn't want that. He wants to go against the best. And if Letang's their best, he wants to go against him.”
Trotz joked about the bizarre sequence involving Beagle's visor:
“That was sort of like a Halloween costume right there. He didn't know what to do. He said, 'I've got a stick. What do I do?' … Comical but a little bit dangerous."
-Richards had an interesting observation about the Capitals' first-round opponent, the Flyers, and the Penguins:
“It's probably a contrast of two games with [Philadelphia], how structured they are and coming up the ice together. And [Pittsburgh] makes those line passes, flip plays. So you just have to be patient, don't push and play their game. We just have to play our game and stick to our structure."
-The Penguins led in shots, 45-35.
-Kessel led the game with six shots.
-Oshie and Carlson each led the Capitals with five shots.
-Letang led the game with 34:02 of ice time.
-He had 29:48 after the first three periods alone.
-Niskanen led the Capitals with 32:13 of ice time.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 46-39 (54 percent).
-Crosby was 19 for 28 (68 percent).
-Beagle was 12 for 19 (63 percent).
-Cole, Daley and Carlson each led the game with four blocked shots.
-The Penguins have lost eight consecutive postseason overtime games. Their last win of that type was Orpik's series-clinching goal in a 4-3 win against the Islanders in Game 6 of a 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series:
-The last postseason hat tricks scored against the Penguins came in the same game. Flyers centers Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux each netted three goals in an 8-5 win in Game 2 of a 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
-Ovechkin (Game 2 of a 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal series) and right winger Dino Ciccarelli (Game 4 of a 1992 Patrick Division semifinal) are the only other Capitals players to get a hat trick in a playoff game vs. the Penguins.
-This was the first time a player completed a postseason hat trick vs. the Penguins with an overtime goal.
-The Capitals are 8-1 all time in Game 1s vs. the Penguins.
-The Capitals distributed red light-up "Thundersticks" which made for a neat effect with the house lights down:
Really cool effect in here with red light up thunder sticks: pic.twitter.com/s3V5mXIoH8— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) April 29, 2016
(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)