|2020-21 Record||Goaltender||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||2-0-0||Ilya Samsonov||4.00 / .846|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||0-2-0||Casey DeSmith||1.25 / .923|
The Washington Capitals kicked off their 2020-21 campaign with back-to-back wins in Buffalo to get a 2-0-0 jump-start. Now, they’re hoping to write the same story in Pittsburgh.
The Capitals were looking to defeat the Sabres for a second time in two nights on Friday. Washington was 6-1-1 in their last eight vs Buffalo, and historically good on the 2nd night of back-to-back games. Brenden Dillon played in his 600th career NHL game, and goaltender Vitek Vanecek made his NHL regular season debut. Heading into the game, John Carlson boasted the most points by a defensemen in 2nd game of back-to-back of active players. The Sabres received the first power play of the night, as they had on Thursday evening, but the Capitals successfully killed off the penalty (Dillon, hooking). Unfortunately, with just under 10 minutes left in the first, Buffalo went back on the power play as Conor Sheary was called for tripping. Washington luckily kept the Sabres score-less. But Buffalo was gifted their third power play of the period (to Washington’s zero) with three minutes remaining (Kuznetsov, holding). The Capitals killed off all three penalties in the first, but desperately needed to get more shots on net going the other way.
Jakub Vrana got the Capitals on the board as the first goal of the game just 94 seconds into the middle period. That makes two goals in two games for Vrana.
John Carlson went off for two minutes with 7:37 remaining for slashing, giving Buffalo their 4th power play, but the Sabres once again did not convert. The last five minutes of the 2nd period were the longest of the game, as the Sabres stayed in Washington’s defensive zone for over 90 seconds, as the Caps failed to clear multiple times. Vanecek was forced to make save after save to keep his Capitals leading, 1-0.
Carl Hagelin nearly scored with a sneaky wrap-around with 30 seconds remaining, but the score remained 1-0 heading into the 3rd.
It was unlikely Vrana’s single tally would be the only goal of the game, and it took 31 seconds into the third for Rasmus Ristolainen to score for Buffalo and tie the game, 1-1. Buffalo was heavily outshooting the Capitals, 28-17, five minutes into the third. Tom Wilson scored the tie-breaker after a Buffalo turnover with just over 12 minutes left.
Zdeno Chara went off for holding to give the Sabres their 5th… yes, their 5th… power play of the night, with 4:15 left. Self-discipline was a big problem for the Capitals last year, and despite being even split on Thursday, Washington didn’t have a single opportunity with the man-advantage. The Caps killed it off, and the Sabres vacated their net for the extra attacker with a little under two minutes remaining. Luckily, Tom Wilson’s tie-breaker ended up being the game-winner for Washington, and the Caps swept their opening two-game series against Buffalo.
Vitek Vanecek made 30 saves on 31 shots and allowed 1.02 goals against for a .968 save percentage to mark his first career NHL win. Ilya Samsonov will likely start for the Caps on Sunday versus the Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Philadelphia Flyers, again, by a score of 5-2 on Friday night. Pittsburgh dropped their first game (also versus the Flyers) by a score of 6-3.
Early on, the Flyers went on the power play as the Pens were called for too-many-men, and Chad Ruhwedel served the penalty. At the 7:27 mark Travis Konecny gave his team a 1-0 lead, with the man-advantage. Not long after, just under two minutes after his first, Konecny tallied his 2nd of the game to extend the Flyers lead, 2-0. Ivan Provorov put up Philly’s third goal of the first period just two minutes later. Pens bench boss Mike Sullivan should have pulled Tristan Jarry in favor of Casey DeSmith in hopes of keeping the game respectable, and he did just that. On Pittsburgh’s first power play of the game, just 60 seconds in, Sidney Crosby tallied his 2nd of the season to make it 3-1, and 32 seconds later, Brandon Tanev made it 3-2. The Flyers led heading into the middle period, but the Penguins had severely cut into that lead.
The second period was goal-less, but not without penalties-a-plenty. The Flyers received three more power play opportunities, and the Penguins, one, but neither team was able to convert. In the third, with just over seven minutes left in the match, Travis Konecny tallied his third of the game to seal the hat-trick. Both teams had one more power-play opportunity but didn’t convert. With the Pens net vacant, Oskar Lindblom tallied an empty-net goal to mark his 2nd goal in two games to seal the 5-2 win.
Tristan Jarry, before being pulled, allowed three goals on six shots. Casey DeSmith stopped 12 of 13 shots, for a .923 save percentage. It is unclear who will start for Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Penguins are without the services of Kasperi Kapanen (Unfit to Play), and Zach Aston-Reese (IR-LT).
NBC will be covering Capitals vs Penguins, from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA, with puck drop coming shortly after 12:00pm.
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