Capitals Endure Penguins at Home

Nicklas Backstrom prepares to take a face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 26, 2023. Photo Credit: Washington Capitals via Twitter

The Washington Capitals scored the first goal of the game and the last goal of the shootout to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 Thursday night in Capital One Arena. The win gives the Capitals a one-point advantage over the Penguins in the East’s wild-card contest.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 32nd goal on an early power-play to give the Capitals the 1-0 advantage. The Capitals had been scored on first in eight of the last 11 games. Pittsburgh had generated the first scoring chance, but the Capitals tilted the ice the other way with six shots on the power play alone. Garnet Hathaway took a boarding penalty in the period, but the Capitals’ penalty kill prevented any Penguins shots on goal.

Coach Peter Laviolette said postgame that the visitors were strongest in the second period. Danton Heinen scored early in the period to tie the score at 1. The Penguins took 18 shots in the middle period, but neither team scored again until the final 20 minutes of regulation. Washington took 12 shots in the second period and only seven in the third. Marcus Johansson gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead with a wrist shot just over five minutes into the third period. Bryan Rust scored on a rush up the right wing with 12:52 remaining to play.

The Penguins won the first faceoff of overtime thanks to Jeff Carter, but 45 seconds later, Evgeni Malkin tripped T.J. Oshie to give the Capitals a power play. The Penguins cleared the puck out multiple times, but the Capitals still managed four shots on the four-on-three.

Laviolette chose to shoot first in the shootout, starting with T.J. Oshie, who has a 49.5% success rate. Oshie did not score on Casey DeSmith, who officially finished the night with 43 saves. Rickard Rakell shot first for Pittsburgh and forced Darcy Kuemper to attempt a split save, then lifted the puck over Kuemper’s left pad. Evgeny Kuznetsov beat DeSmith on the second attempt, but Crosby was stopped. Nicklas Backstrom got the puck past DeSmith through the five-hole for Washington to take the lead. Kuemper finished the game with a stop on Malkin.

Washington matched a season-high with 22 total shots in the first period. All but one of the Capitals’ skaters had a shot on goal by the end of the second period. Ovechkin led all skaters with seven shots on goal. Sidney Crosby and Marcus Pettersson had five each for Pittsburgh. Due to the absence of Tom Wilson, who was injured in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss in Colorado on Tuesday, Anthony Mantha played his third consecutive game. He recorded two shots on goal, two hits, and four penalty minutes in 14:41.

The Capitals will play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. Toronto plays the Ottowa Senators on Friday. The Maple Leafs beat the New York Rangers in overtime on Wednesday. The two teams have met twice this season, once at each arena. The home team won each matchup.

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