Even without Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins win Game 4 and have pushed the Washington Capitals to the brink of elimination.
The game began with a fast pace as the energy levels were high inside PPG Arena. “Boos” rained from the Pittsburgh crowd whenever Matt Niskanin or Alex Ovechkin touched the puck. You could tell how badly the Penguins wanted to score the first goal of this game against the Washington Capitals.
They would do so when Patrick Hornquist split the D-pair of Karl Alzner and Brooks Orpik. Tape-to-tape passing from zone-to-zone allowed Hornquist a breakaway which he buried top shelf on Braden Holtby.
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Already up 1-0. the Penguins had two powerplays before the period was over. Thankfully the Capitals penalty-kill continued their stellar play and thwarted any chances. Before the period was finished, Washington did have some quality chances that just weren’t tucked home.
It felt like it should have been 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
This game was ratcheted up another notch in the second period. Four total goals were scored. Pittsburgh went up 2-0 after a centering pass went off Dmitri Orlov’s skate and into the Washington net. An own-goal for the Caps was devastating.
Washington did have a response as they tied the game with goals coming just a minute apart. It was Evegeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt providing the even strength goals for the Caps. Persistent forechecks led to Pittsburgh turnvovers which Washington thankfully capitalized on.
All of the momentum was stopped when the Caps were called for their third penalty of the game. This time the Penguins finished their man-advantage and regained the lead.
The Penguins are so good at blocking shots that you may think Dale Hunter is on their coaching staff. It is so frustrating to see chance after chance get blocked by Penguins skates and bodies. And when the puck finally does get through, Fluery is there with an outstanding stop.
Somehow the Capitals were once again incapable of scoring three or more regulation goals. Their finishing touch has been poor all playoffs long, as they whiff on rebounds or shots and cannot lift the puck when needed. Pittsburgh survived a thrilling third period and it is surprising that they didn’t score an empty netter.
A 3-2 loss to a Pittsburgh team without Crosby, Conor Sheary, and Kris Letang has put Washington in a 3-1 series hole. They must get their first home-ice win of the series on Saturday if they have any intention of exercising the demons that continue to haunt the franchise.