A perfect 10. That is the best way to describe the Penguins last few weeks of hockey given that this evening, besting the Washington Capitals by a score of 2 to 1, Pittsburgh won their tenth consecutive game. The Penguins, perched atop the Eastern Conference Standings, were simply looking to extend their winning streak while Washington, ever aware that there are less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, were looking to add to their season point tally of 25 in hopes of inching closer to that 8th and final playoff spot.
A minute and a half into the first period of play, Pittsburgh’s power play was called upon when Washington’s Jack Hillen was called for interference against Sidney Crosby when the Pens captain was hit without possession of the puck. The Capitals had no problems killing it off. The Penguins would dominate the first period although there would be no scoring action. With twenty seconds left on the clock in the first twenty, Beau Bennett was whistled for a trip, giving Washington the man advantage heading into the third.
Despite having the third best power play in the NHL at the moment, the Capitals couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage and were held without a goal for the remained of Bennett’s minor. However, they would score first, the goal coming with just over eight minutes off the clock courtesy of Alexander Ovechkin. Chris Kunitz was called for a trip, giving Washington its second power play of the evening. A puck would rebound off of the pads of Marc-Andre Fleury and bounce to Ovechkin who bury it off the post for the goal. Less than a minute later, Jason Chimera was whistled for a hook and suddenly the Capitals were down a man. This time, Paul Martin was credited with the goal. Following a blocked pass, Crosby was able to corral the puck and send it to Martin sitting at the midpoint. Martin was then able to blast it past Braden Holtby thanks to a screen by Brandon Sutter, tying the game at a goal apiece. With just under fifty seconds left to play in the third, Joe Vitale was whistled for a trip, ensuring that, once again, the Capitals would end a period and start the following one up a man. After forty minutes of play, with the game tied at one, Pittsburgh was outshooting Washington 24 to 21.
Pittsburgh successfully killed the penalty off to start the third but were tested halfway through when Matt Cooke was given two minutes for boarding and another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving Washington the man advantage for four minutes. The Capitals, however, could not get anything going and just seconds after it expired it was Matt Niskanen giving Pittsburgh the lead. His slapper following a rush would beat Holtby fair and square. With 1:21 left in regulation, the Capitals pulled Holtby in favour of the extra attacker. It was to no avail as the Penguins would make history with the win, becoming the first team in NHL history to have a winning streak of at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons.
While Kris Letang continues to be sidelined with a lower-body injury, Paul Martin led all skaters with 28:14 of ice time. Brooks Orpik followed with 25:59. Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin, Matt Cooke and Sidney Crosby each had five shots on goal while the Penguins, as a whole, registered 36 shots in total. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 29.
Evgeni Malkin continues to be sidelined with an upper-body injury although he continues to skate on his own.
The Penguins will hit the road again Friday when they will travel to New York to take on the Islanders. Game time is 7:00pm.