Penguins Stave Off Capitals 3-2 – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Stave Off Capitals 3-2

They say all is fair in love and war. Perhaps in hockey, too.

Two nights after Washington kayoed our captain, Sidney Crosby, in dastardly fashion, the Penguins resorted to a little chicanery in Game 4 to ensure a win.


With two minutes remaining and the locals clinging to a precarious 3-2 lead, forward Nick Bonino bought a bogus high-sticking call with a boffo acting job worthy of an Oscar.

Up came T.J. Oshie’s stick. Back went “Bone’s” head, raising a glove to his bearded face for true thespian effect. Tweet went the referee’s whistle. Oshie skated straight to the penalty box without complaint, denying the Caps a last-ditch chance to work with an extra attacker.

Speaking of marvelous work, how about goalie Marc-Andre Fleury? If not for Flower’s brilliant 36-save effort, the Pens don’t win, plain and simple.

Once again, No. 29 made the near impossible look ridiculously easy. In particular, his stunning rapid-fire pad saves on Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson with eight minutes to play in the first period—at opposite posts no less—stood out.

How he traversed his crease so quickly, I’ll never know. Sometimes, Flower truly stretches the bounds of reality with his cat-like reflexes and extraordinary athleticism.

My overall impression? All things considered, I was quite pleased with our effort…for the first 25 minutes. Sans Crosby and speedy Conor Sheary, the Pens gave a remarkably good account of themselves through the early going. With hard-rock defenseman Ian Cole and warrior winger Chris Kunitz leading the way (11 hits combined), the black and gold were physical but controlled. Opportunistic, too.

Patric Hornqvist got us off and running. Collecting a pretty feed from Olli Maatta, the spirited Swede split Caps defensemen Karl Alzner and Brooks Orpik and beat Braden Holtby top-shelf at 4:39 of the opening frame for the all-important first goal.

Jake Guentzel padded the Pens’ lead early in the second period, thanks to some fortuitous puck luck. Arcing wide in the Washington zone, the rookie sensation fired a cross-ice pass to Carter Rowney. The puck never reached its intended target, instead glancing off the skate of Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov and in.

Then the Pens unraveled. Error-prone to the extreme, their game dissolved amid a catastrophic cluster of turnovers and defensive gaffes, resulting in a pair of quick-strike goals by Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt within a ghastly 72-second span.

Aside from Justin Schultz’ power-play rocket at 11:24—which proved to be the game winner—and Fleury’s mesmerizing play between the pipes, there was little to cheer from a Penguins perspective over the final thirty minutes.

Indeed, while the Caps attacked in waves, the locals virtually ceded the neutral zone, to the tune of a stunning 26-9 deficit in shots on goal during the final two periods. In classic kitty-bar-the-door fashion, the Pens worked like mad to clear the puck, then braced for the next Washington thrust.

Frankly, it was tough to watch. I spent most of the final minutes with a hand clasped firmly to my face in trepidation, peering through spread fingers at the TV. Hoping for the best…fearing the worst.

Somehow, in a game we simply had to win, our guys gutted it out and found a way. Thanks to their indomitable collective will—not to mention heart, grit and resilience—they now hold a 3-games-to-1 lead…and a precious bit of breathing room.

A final thought. No one knows what the future holds for Fleury. Perhaps he’ll be traded. Maybe he’ll be claimed by Las Vegas in the expansion draft. There’s always a slim possibility Flower will remain a Penguin.

The odds are against it.

One thing’s certain. In the twilight of his stay in the ‘Burgh, Marc-Andre’s risen to the occasion like never before. Never have I seen him so razor-sharp, so intent for such a prolonged stretch. It’s as if all the elements in his game have, at long last, coalesced in a magnificent display of goaltending excellence.

He’s truly been masterful.

Enjoy him while it lasts.


Washington dominated in shot attempts (72-38) and shots on goal (38-18). The Penguins controlled the faceoff circle (32-26) and outhit the Caps, 40-30.

Maatta and Matt Cullen assisted on Hornqvist’s goal. Evgeni Malkin and Guentzel earned helpers on Schultz’ tally. “Geno” paces all postseason scorers with 16 points and 12 assists. Guentzel tops the list with eight goals. Phil Kessel leads in plus/minus (+11).

Hornqvist shook off a leg injury to log 15:55 of ice time. He was named second star of the game. Fleury earned first-star honors.

Rowney (plus-1) and Scott Wilson replaced Crosby and Sheary.

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  1. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    May 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Two other notes, NHL.com has Crosby practicing with the team today, Murray was practicing in pads. In both cases I would recommend caution, but obviously good news. Crosby is the more important of the 2 to get back, but if the Pens could win game 5 without him and let him rest a little longer that would be great.

    As for Murray, I would be more confident with him back, but as for starting, the is MAFs team unless he melts down. In one of Sully’s few gaffaws last year was when he tried to replace Murray with Fluery when Fluery was healthy. I am of the school of you don’t take out a hot hand.

    • Phil Krundle's Gravatar Phil Krundle
      May 5, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Crosby did a full practice in regular full contact gear. I hope they aren’t rushing this.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        May 5, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Hi Phil
        My worry as well… but it could be Sid’s desire to get back to back Cup wins and a place in the NHL history books. He is a very competitive person and my fear is HE may not wait enough time to heal properly.
        Let’s Go Pen’s. .

    • Phil Krundle's Gravatar Phil Krundle
      May 5, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Here were the lines this morning:


  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    May 5, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Pens brought up their farm club players like last year to be part of the run but probably not play; they are; Maguire, Warsofsky, Pouliot, Gaunce, Corrado, Sestito, Simon, Dea, G. Wilson, Porter, and Sprong. For me Sestito, G Wilson, and Sprong represent the more interesting ones. I can’t say I my anger at the Great Ape wouldn’t like to see Sestito and G Wilson dress for some payback. A good thing in my old age cooler heads prevail and I like the way the Pens paid them back last game, on the scoreboard. Although the article I read quoted JR saying it in unlikely that Sprong would see any ice-time, I can’t help wonder if he has developed a full game and what his scoring instincts could add to an already lethal O.

  3. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    May 4, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,and others,
    In my last post I indeed said my vote to date for the Conn Smythe would be MAF !! Up to 20 minutes ago,I was all but certain of it.Then I get a call from my close friend in Halifax,one of Sidney’s former minor league Coaches. I told him proudly about my pick for the Conn Smythe award and how I had changed my opinion on MAF. He said to me, great pick , well deserved but there is one better. So you guys know me, I start at Crosby and went thru about 6 possible alternative candidates. All good choices he said, but the wrong guy !! ( You have probably figured out what I am going to say.) The most deserved candidate for the Conn Smythe he said can not even qualify for it….. MIKE SULLIVAN !! That is the key ingredient to the the Pen’s success my friend said. Mike’s unique ability to take a team and get them ALL TO PLAY as a unit is unparalleled in the league. None better….Not even close.
    When we really think about it, last year he took a dysfunctional group of very talented misfits, going nowhere fast and made them believe in themselves and to play as one. He benched the super stars or the fan favorites when needed and he rewarded the kids with more ice time….and we won !!
    Last game it was apparent that Mike Sullivan worked his magic again and our boys played thru it all and won as well.They did not look like they were concerned about not having # 87, It did not matter. Mike made our guys believe we can beat anybody if we play our game, and our game is not just Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang, Murray, MAF…It is about competing and doing your best and knowing that when you do you can beat anybody most of the time. Pens hockey..
    I want to say Rick that I had never really given this subject the careful thought it deserves, and our true advantage and MVP is the guy behind the bench.
    Before we ended our conversation he went on to say look at the remaining 7 Coaches left in the Play offs and that is your real strength….and you will win the Cup in 2017.
    All Barry Trotz could say was our best players have to play better…..and the look on his face said it all….. ouch.
    To Mike Sullivan!! Someone I often overlooked! Who ever lifts the Conn Smythe this year can take a look at the bench and thank the man who really should have won it.

    One thing for sure….I would not want to be in a Capitals uniform on Saturday night and facing the unknown…

  4. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    May 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Just tossing a log on the fire.

    I rarely have issues with the way Mike Sullivan deploys the troops. I have the utmost respect and trust in him as a coach.

    While wincing at the TV screen last night, it occurred to me that I didn’t see much of the fourth line. Struck me as a little odd, especially in a game where we were under so much duress.

    I decided to check the stats. Sure enough, Rowney played 5:36, Wilson only 4:49. Kuhnhackl played a bit more (12:33). Hagelin also played sparingly (9:15).

    While I’m sure Sully had his reasons, I felt we could’ve used those legs, especially given our struggles to clear the zone.


    PS–Sid was on the ice today…good news, indeed!

    PSS–I was really proud of Kunitz last night for a number of reasons, but especially for going after Tom Wilson in the third period. Ol’ Kuny punked him pretty good…actually wound up on top of the Caps’ baddie.

    Also, Cole absolutely leveled Justin Williams late in the game at the Pens’ blue line. I actually have a healthy respect for Williams…hate him on the Caps, but would love to have him.

    It was great to see our Pens stand their ground and even shove back a little.

  5. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    May 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,

    It wasn’t pretty, yet it was beautiful at the same time. That’s the dichotomy of the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins. Win beautifully, or ugly, but just win. For all my carping about size and toughness, I sometimes miss the inherent toughness and grit in doing what it takes to win no matter the situation. If I wore a hat, I’d be tipping it at this very minute.

    I don’t know what to expect from the Caps in the next game. I’m not sure they have a Plan B. I’m not sure they are capable of tailoring their game to much beyond what they’re already doing. It should be clear to them by now that out shooting and out chancing one’s opponent means nothing if you finish the game one goal down.

    Their performance last night in the first period was as if they knew everyone was onto them and they were trying to hide the fact that they were overjoyed that Sid was out, unsure how to deal with that joy. Should we look happy? The Caps are facing yet another post season identity crisis. I hope they come out Saturday still bathed in uncertainty.

    I also hope the Pens devise some schemes for clearing their zone and raising a few fore checks that are more than one and done. Yeah, it’s working, but when they play like they did in the third, I begin to wonder how much longer before those shot differentials start to exact a toll, along with the bruises. I imagine at this point just about every Pens player is purple from the shoulders down with bone chips floating in places they shouldn’t be floating. So, okay, I’ll admit they do miss Letang more than I was willing to admit! I’m not the shiniest apple in the barrel, but I ain’t blind.

    I hope they end this Saturday. They could use a few healing days. Plus, it would be sweet to once again humble the regular season champs in front of their home crowd.

    — 55

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      May 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55,

      I am right there with you with that sentiment, end it now before the the great ape and his goons can hurt anyone else.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 4, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Great stuff, as always, 55.

      Really, nothing to add. You summed things up pretty well.


    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 4, 2017 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      On second thought, I will add a comment.

      I’ve been puzzling over why the Pens are having so much trouble moving the puck out of their zone. And, of course, the answer’s obvious.

      Kris Letang.

      Tanger gave us 25 minutes (or more) a night. That’s virtually half a game of mobile, gap-closing, puck-moving, skate-it-out-of-danger defense we’re missing.

      Small wonder we’re having so many issues.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        May 5, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

        Maybe Rick, maybe Letang could have picked his game up and cleared the zone come playoff time, but the problem of clearing their own zone has been plaguing the Pens all season, even when Letang was playing.

        Of course, Letang’s injury may have been sustain a long time ago and was just getting worse and worse over time, until he finally had to do something about it, with his play this year reflective of problems stemming from his herniated disc. Regardless of the whys, even though Letang was a beast last year, he was a toothless bumble this year. Schultz was the best Pens D during the regular season this year, even if you only consider the time frame when Letang played.

        Yes we are missing the Letang of last year, not simply eating up minutes but thriving on those minutes. Unfortunately, that Letang was not here at all this year.

  6. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    May 4, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I can’t say I have always been a Flower fan. The inconsistency that was his early career had me yelling at the TV screen (Spent most of his career, particularly his early career in GA, didn’t see any live). Many times I wanted to trade him just to get him offf of the roster.

    However, over the last several seasons he has been a Fort, a Stone wall, particularly when the team couldn’t by a goal under MJ.

    I am have become a fan. Even though I have complained about the Pens not trading him in the off-season or earlier in the season in exchange for a real defensemen, my reasons were for trading him were not out of not respecting his abilities or what he has done for the team, but only for what he could bring back in a trade and using that to fill a gaping hole in the team.

    As I recently noted on your last post, in response to a comment by Jim, Since I am a former goalie, should the Pens win the Cup, my natural inclination would be to nominate MAF for the Conn Smythe.

    However, as spectacular as MAF has been, let us not forget that the O on this team has also been down right destructive of opponents. In comes Bobrovsky 1 of 3 candidates for the Vezina with a stellar regular season record, facing the Pens O, he goes out looking like a turnstile with a Sv% well below 0.900. It is too early to say what the final chapter of this series will be, but to date Holtby, another Vezina candidate has looked average at best.

    I am not sure which has been more important, the O or the G. The only thing I will say is that the Pens are looking exactly like I had mentioned pre-playoffs, they are being carried by a lethal offense and heroic goaltending, with a completely forgettable effort by their D.

    MAF has faced over 36 SOG/60, has had almost 20 more shots blocked in front of him because they couldn’t clear their own zone and over 14 more shots miss the net for a total of 68 shot attempts against him per 60min. And on O against 2 of the 3 finalists for the Vezina, they are scoring on 13.3% of their shots on goal. While the D surrenders a league leading 37.3 SOG per Game.


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