Recap: Game 5 – Penguins vs. Capitals

For the fifth time in just the first week of the regular NHL schedule and the second time at home, the Penguins took the ice where they would face a familiar rival, the Washington Capitals. You might remember them from the HBO series “24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic,” that aired last year, creating a media phenomenon of both teams that ultimate earned HBO a sports Emmy.

The Pens would strike first less than three minutes into the first courtesy of James Neal. Neal, who suffered from a scoring

The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate a goal courtesy of James Neal (18) at the Consol Energy Center. (Courtesy of Getty Images.)

drought during the latter half of last year, earned his third of the season when he snapped a one timer past Caps net-minder Tomas Vokoun. The rest of the period would be all Pens as the hometown team would grab the momentum, registering 12 shots while only allowing Washington to fire off three. At the end of the first twenty, however, the Pens would hold a 1-0 lead over the Capitals courtesy of Neal’s goal.

The second would see the Caps even it up very early on in the period. With less than a minute and a half off the board, (18:40) Washington veteran Mike Knuble would carry a puck to the net before crashing into Pens net-minder Brent Johnson. The puck would bounce of Johnson’s inside pad and squeak it’s way over the goal line. The momentum would shift in favour of the Caps during the second twenty, and Johnson would be pushed to the limit a number of times. Despite a last minute attempt that saw Jordan Staal nearly re-direct a shot from the point, heading into the final period the game would remain tied at a goal a piece.

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James Neal is congratulated by linemates after scoring his second goal of the night. The goal tied the game ultimately earning the Pens their 8th point despite the overtime loss. (Courtesy of Getty Images.)

With just forty seconds off the clock in the final twenty, the Caps would gain the lead courtesy of a tip-in from team captain Alexander Ovechkin. The goal, which originally appeared to be a shot from the point that found the corner of the top of the net courtesy of Mike Green, was reviewed before awarded and the Caps appeared to have continued on with the swing of momentum in their favour. With 14:06 left on the clock, the Pens Arron Asham would have words with the Caps Jay Beagle. Beagle would go down hard and stay down before being assisted back up by his teammates and escorted to the penalty box for roughing. (Asham, who would take some media flack during the game for some “uncalled for” gestures would later apologize for getting lost in the heat of the moment.) As the period wound down, it looked as thought the Caps would come away with the win. However, James Neal had other plans and with just 3:37 left in regulation, he would score his second of the night , second short-handed and fourth of the season (doubling his goal tally from last year in the black and gold uniform) tying the game and bringing it to overtime. (Something that appears to be becoming quite the habit.)

Just over two-minutes into the overtime period, Jordan Staal would be called for tripping giving the Caps the 4-on-3 advantage. It would take them just forty-eight seconds to capitalize on that, and it would be Dennis Wideman earning himself a power play goal to seal the deal. The Pens would ultimately collect their eighth point of the season as a result of their second over time loss.

Tonight saw the return of Evgeni Malkin to the ice. Malkin had missed Sunday’s game against Edmonton and Tuesday’s game against Florida with an undisclosed mid-body injury and had been listed day-to-day. Geno’s return came the same day it was announced that captain Sidney Crosby had been cleared for full practice and winger Chris Kunitz had been given a two-year contract extension. The Penguins continue to be without the services of defenceman Brooks Orpik who underwent surgery this summer and center Dustin Jeffrey.

Kris Letang led all skaters with 28:04 of ice time, followed by Paul Martin who had 23:21. James Neal tallied 8 shots on goal while Tyler Kennedy earned 6 of his own. Vokoun faced 41 shots courtesy of the Pens while Johnson faced 19. Just one week into the regular season (and at the time this recap was written – that being roughly 10:00pm EST on October 13, 2011) James Neal was leading the goal scoring race with 4 goals on the season, while Kris Letang was second in terms of points with 6 to his name. Letang also has 5 assists on the season, earning him the third spot in the league and with 3 wins, Marc-Andre Fleury sits in second place in the league. The team, as a whole, currently sits first in the league with a record of 3-0-2, earning them 8 points on the season. With five games under their belt, they currently have played the most games in the league thus far.

The Pens take to the ice again on Saturday when they will face the Buffalo Sabres for the first time this season. Last season, the Pens swept their series against Buffalo 4-0. Puck drops at 7:00pm.