Riding the waves of a crushing 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils yesterday, the Penguins rolled into Washington, DC, looking to do some serious business with the Great 8 and the Capitals. Needing just a single point to take the top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Penguins were hoping to make it two for good measure and for the simple satisfaction of notching another victory against a much perceived media-rival.
It would take less than four minutes for the Penguins to get their first of the afternoon. Although there was initial confusion as to who was credited with the goal, it would be Paul Martin shooting from the point and deflecting it off of Chris Kunitz into the net behind Braden Holtby. Two minutes later, Capitals’ d-man Mike Green would tie the game at a goal apiece. Green would elude the Pens and snap a one-timer past Tomas Vokoun. The Penguins would earn another before the end of the first, taking a one goal lead heading into the second. This time, it would be a slap shot by Derek Engelland, the goal credited to Matt Cooke, beating Holtby and finding the netting. Shots were even at 9 apiece.
The Capitals would tie the game less than five minutes into the second on a fluke bounce courtesy of John Carlson. Carlson would dump the puck into the Penguins end and Vokoun would leave the net to play it. However, the puck would take matters into its own hand and rather than rim around the net, it would follow a weird trajectory into the net, giving Washington it’s second of the game. Pittsburgh would respond with three of their own. Their third of the afternoon would come courtesy of Kris Letang with just over thirteen minutes left to go in the period. Creating a lot of traffic in front of Holtby, Brandon Sutter would send a pass across ice to Letang who would wait it out, looking for that opportune moment, before ripping it past the goaltender, bringing the Pens to a 3-2 lead. Thirty-some seconds later, it would be Chris Kunitz with Pittsburgh’s fourth of the afternoon. Sidney Crosby would carry the puck down the ice and slide it off to Kunitz who would sneak it past Holtby, and suddenly the Penguins were up two again. But, Kunitz wasn’t finished just yet. With just under seven minutes left in the period, Wojtek Wolski would be called for a trip, sending the
Penguins to the power play. Evgeni Malkin would carry the puck into the Capitals zone before passing it off, through traffic, to Kunitz who would tap it over the line, giving the Penguins a commanding 5-2 lead. They would maintain that lead heading into the third.
Two minutes into the third, Simon Despres would be called for delay of game when his clearing attempts sent the puck into the crowd. The Capitals would capitalize(bad joke) on the man advantage with a power-play goal courtesy Mike Ribeiro, picking up a rebound and throwing it to the net. The goal would fuel a shift in momentum for the Caps who would go hard at Vokoun. Pittsburgh would kill off a high-sticking call against Robert Bortuzzo before earning a two man advantage when Alexander Ovechkin was called for roughing and John Carlson earned two for holding with just a minute and a half left in regulations. This would open the door for Kunitz’s third of the afternoon. With just seven seconds left to play, he’d beat Holtby fair and square, earning his third career hat trick. The Penguins would take the game 6 -3, earning their eleventh and twelfth points, putting them at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Brooks Orpik led all skaters with 28:11 of ice time, while Paul Martin earned 27:41 of his own. Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby each had a three point game, while Kris Letang led the team with shots on goal, recording four. Tomas Vokoun stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced, while Braden Holtby stopped 20 of the 26 the Penguins sent in his direction.
The Penguins continue to be without the services of Matt Niskanen, who will be sidelined for at least another week with a lower body injury. Chris Kunitz had been listed as a game-time decision, the result of an illness.
The Penguins will rest on Monday before travelling back to New York to battle it out with the Islanders for the second time this season. The Islanders currently lead that series 1 to 0.