After losing the first two games of round one in overtime at home, the Capitals came out tonight like a team possessed for the first 40 minutes against Pittsburgh.
It only took Evgeny Kuznetsov 17 seconds to give the Washington Capitals a 1-0 lead. Kuznetsov also opened scoring in game one of the Capitals first round series against Columbus. His goal was his fifth of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs; and assisted by Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson.
After the opening goal, the rest of the first period was highlighted by heavy hitting and multiple missed opportunities on both sides of the ice. Washington out-hit Pittsburgh 18-13 in the first 20 minutes of a game that was everything Capitals and Penguins fans have come to know and love in the rivalry. Even with the combined 31 hits, both teams managed to stay out of the penalty box in the opening period.
Ovechkin had an amazing chance to double the lead five minutes after Penguins goaltender Matt Murray found himself on the wrong side of the night; but shot just wide as the Capitals went into the first intermission holding a 1-0 lead.
Washington continued to dictate the pace and physicality throughout a scoreless second period at Capital One Arena. The Capitals beat the Penguins in shots on goal in the second period 10-8 and continued to out-hit the Penguins; by a 13-5 margin in period two. Washington also killed off their 17th consecutive penalty of this year’s playoffs on Wilson’s interference call halfway through the second period.
Ovechkin did indeed double the lead 28 seconds into the final period to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
The game however took a complete 180 degree turn from that point forward as the Penguins scored three goals in the span of 4:49 to take the lead; a lead they would never surrender. Pittsburgh center Jake Guentzel lead the charge scoring the game winning goal with 12:12 remaining in the contest and accounting for assists on the two previous goals. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornvquist each tallied a goal and an assist during the rally.
Thursday night’s collapse marked the third time in these playoffs that the Capitals have given up a 2 goal lead at home.
Washington will look to even the series Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena; gametime is set for 3:00pm.