The Penguins returned to home ice tonight, looking to extend their current win streak to five in their second contest against the Washington Capitals in the last week. Coming off a 4-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Penguins were hoping to earn just their second home victory of the season against a struggling and slumping Caps team.
Just over four minutes into the first, Washington would strike on a fluke goal that left a great deal of Pens fans seething in their seats both at the arena and at home. It would come courtesy of Mike Ribeiro following a play that saw Wojtek Woski back into Pens net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury, knocking him down while losing his helmet. At first the reference would conference, ultimately allowing the goal to stand. According to the NHL Rule Book, when a goaltender loses their helmet, play can only be suspended if there is no immediate chance of the other team scoring. The only time play is stopped is when the goalie’s team is in possession of the puck. (NHL Rule 9.5) It would later be determined that Fleury’s helmet was dislodged by the stick of Brooks Orpik. Regardless of the how, the Capitals would head into the second period up a goal while outshooting the Penguins 8 to 5.
The Penguins would respond in the second period and they would respond BIG, scoring five unanswered goals. The first would come courtesy of Evgeni Malkin, with a power play goal, after Washington’s Karl Alzner was called for interference. With just ten seconds off the penalty, Malkin would beat Caps’ net-minder Michael Neuvirth with a snap shot from a tough angle to the top corner. Six minutes later, Pascal Dupuis would give the Penguins a one goal lead with a wrist shot from the circle that would beat Neuvirth five hole. That would be a night for Neuvirth as Capitals coach Adam Oates would pull him in favour of Braden Holtby. However, the goal tending change wouldn’t help Washington’s cause. With less than five minutes left to go in the second, Joel Ward would be called for delay of game, sending the Penguins to a power play yet again. This time, it would be James Neal earning a power-play goal for himself after picking up a pass from Chris Kunitz while waiting behind the Caps’ defence along the goal line. His backhander would slip past Holtby, and the Pens were up by 2. This would be followed ELEVEN SECONDS LATER by goal number four, this time Matt Cooke getting the honours. Cooke would park himself atop the circle so as to pick up the pass from Brandon Sutter following a faceoff win and all it would take was a snap shot. In the final two minutes of the period, Roman Hamrlik would be called for interference, giving the Pens yet another power play opportunity. Despite making an initial save on Sidney Crosby, Holtby would be unable to stop him the second time round, Crosby batting the puck into the net, sealing the deal, quintessentially, for the Penguins. Pittsburgh would outshoot Washington 18 to 6 through the second twenty.
The only goal in the third would come courtesy of Alex Ovechkin following a roughing penalty to Brooks Orpik. Ovechkin
would earn a breakaway but would be unable to beat Fleury and would also encounter a crossbar before the final buzzer. The Penguins would take the game 5-2, moving up two more points in the standing, and living to streak yet another day.
The Penguins were without Kris Letang who has been listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. As such, Paul Martin would lead all skaters with 28:08 of ice time followed by Brooks Orpik with 23:14. Pascal Dupuis, James Neal and Tyler Kennedy each had four shots on net while Evgeni Malkin had three. Crosby and Malkin each had three point nights while Chris Kunitz and Neal eared two. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced while the goal-tending duo of Michael Neuvirth and Braden Holtby stopped 23 of the 28 they faced. With 16 points, the Penguins sit first in their division and in the Eastern Conference while second in the League, just two points behind the Blackhawks.
The Penguins will hit the road again, this time travelling to New Jersey where they will meet the Devils Saturday afternoon. Game time is 1:00pm.