Top Dogs: Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals (37-19-5) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (37-18-6)

 Predicted GoaltenderRecordGAA / SV% / # SO
Washington CapitalsBraden Holtby21-13-53.14 / .896 / 0
Pittsburgh PenguinsMatt Murray17-8-52.80 / .903 / 1

For the second game of this back-to-back, the Washington Capitals will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for just the second time this season. It’s hard to believe we get so deep into the season before we face the Pens, but we now get to watch the top two teams in the Metro battle it out. Pittsburgh defeated the Capitals 4-3 back on February 2nd, and unfortunately, the home team will be donning their alternates once again.


The Washington Capitals took on the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, where they lost a fourth straight game, 3-2, after giving up a late power play goal. Ilya Samsonov, on his 23rd birthday, got the start, and had an opportunity to extend his road win-streak to 11. He would fail to do so, though. The Capitals received back-to-back power plays in the first period, but were unable to convert on either. At the 12:55 mark, Jesper Bratt, on yet another breakaway courtesy of an offensive zone turnover, got the Devils on the board first. For the 7th time in eight games, the Capitals have allowed the first goal. Halfway through the second period, Brenden Dillon was called for hooking to give the Devils their first power play of the afternoon. Ilya Samsonov made a great point-blank save that kept the game just 1-0 in favor of the home team. Moments later however, thanks to another botched play by Nick Jensen, the puck squeezed through and Wayne Simmonds nudged it right off the goal line into the back of the net. A rocket from the point off John Carlson’s stick on Washington’s third power play of the afternoon ended up in the back of the net, spoiling MacKenzie Blackwood’s shutout hopes. Tom Wilson was credited with the goal, which marks his second in two consecutive games, and 19th of the season. With the primary assist on Wilsons’ goal, John Carlson officially tied Calle Johansson for most points by a defenseman in franchise history (475). The road to 700 career goals for Alex Ovechkin has been a long one, but at the 4:50 mark of the third period, the milestone was reached. Ovechkin’s 42nd of the season served as the game-tying goal, on the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, and the Russian winger is just the 8th player in NHL history to score 700 goals. The ‘Great 8’ is the second fastest, and second youngest, to reach the 700-goal mark, behind Wayne Gretzky, with 1,144 games played. He is also the fastest to go from 600 to 700 goals in NHL history (154 games).

Play would resume as 4-on-4 after matching penalties were doled out to Evgeny Kuznetsov and Colton White. The Devils were called for an additional penalty, so for just over 40 seconds, Washington would play 4-on-3, and then have a standard man-advantage for 61 seconds. New Jersey was then called for another offensive zone penalty, with Tom Wilson being hit up high again, so the Caps then received a two-man advantage for fourteen seconds. New Jersey then, as expected, would receive a late power play as Kuznetsov was called hooking. Michal Kempny would then be called, so the Devils would play with a two-man advantage just as Washington had. The Devils made it 3-2 with two minutes remaining, and one more Cap in the penalty box, and Nicklas Backstrom without a stick. Washington would fail to tie it up and force the game to overtime with the goalie pulled. Ilya Samsonov would drop his first road game of the season, after allowing three goals on 28 shots. Braden Holtby will get the start for the Capitals against Pittsburgh.


The Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Buffalo Sabres, 5-2, also on Saturday. Just 14 seconds into the first period, Zach Girgensons scored for the Sabres, with his 11th of the season. Heading into today’s game, Pittsburgh held a 22-5-4 record at home, but were recently shutout 4-0 by the team (Toronto Maple Leafs) they had defeated by a score of 5-2 just two days earlier. Short of the seven-minute mark, Seth Reinhart added to Buffalo’s lead, making it 2-0 in favor of the road team. With Evgeni Malkin in the box for slashing, Jack Eichel scored his 34th goal of the season, improving the Sabres lead 3-0.  Matt Murray will get the start versus the Capitals. Just about halfway through regulation, Evgeni Malkin finally got the Penguins on the board with his 19th goal of the season. Jeff Skinner made it 4-1 with just over 14 minutes remaining the game. Jack Eichel scored his 2nd of the game seven minutes later on the Sabres power play (Brandon Tanev, cross-checking). Malkin then tallied his 2nd of the game with just about two minutes remaining. Despite dropping their last two games, Pittsburgh was able to hold on to the top spot in the Metro division. The Penguins’ 8th ranked power play were unable to convert on either of their two man-advantages, and their 8th ranked penalty kill gave up two Buffalo power play goals (of three opportunities). Bryan Rust leads the Penguins with seven power play goals, although deadline acquisition Jason Zucker has six of his 17 goals coming on the power play. Tristan Jarry finished the match with five goals allowed on 26 shots, dropping just his first game in five starts. Matt Murray will get the start versus the Capitals.


The Pittsburgh Penguins are still plagued with injury, though Sidney Crosby has returned. The Pens are still without Brian Dumoulin (DL, ankle), Nick Bjugstad (DL, abdomen), Jake Guentzel (DL, upper body), Zach Aston-Reese (OUT, lower body), and John Marino (DL, face). Dominik Kahun is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury.


Coverage of the game begins at 11:00pm with Caps Faceoff Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 11:30pm, all on NBCSN/NBCSWA, with puck drop shortly after 12:00pm.


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References:

TheScore. (2020). Pittsburgh Penguins Stats & News. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/10.

TheScore. (2020). Washington Capitals News & Stats. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/15.

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