With their five-game win streak on the line, on Wednesday night the Pittsburgh Penguins (26-8-5) went on the road to the divisional-rival Washington Capitals (26-9-5). Entering the game with good news that goaltender Matt Murray was cleared to dress, Pittsburgh looked to upset the Capitals on their own ice.
However, things didn’t go as the Penguins had hoped, and they lost this game 5-2.
Although starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been on a roll lately, giving up only eight goals in his last five games, Washington found a way to get four goals past the netminder (the fifth goal was an empty-net goal).
Washintgon’s Alexander Ovechkin — who earned his 1,000 point on the night — turned out to be the thorn in Pittsburgh’s side; he scored two goals, one on the powerplay. A third Capitals goal by Justin Williams toward the beginning of the final period of play put Washington up 3-0.
Evgeni Malkin got his 17th goal on the season after scoring on a powerplay not too long after Williams. Malking’s goal gave the Penguins the life they so desperately needed, however, another goal was allowed by the Pittsburgh penalty kill with the period halfway over, which made a comeback all but impossible.
Even though Patric Hornqvist scored a goal late for Pittsburgh, it wasn’t enough to have much effect. Head coach Mike Sullivan pulled Fleury as Washington scored the free goal to seal the deal.
The Capitals’ win tonight made the Metropolitan division even tighter. With Pittsburgh and Washington now tied and with the Columbus Blue Jackets still on top, this looks like it’s going to be a great fight down the stretch to determine who will take home the division crown.
The Carolina Hurricanes are doing well lately, the Philadelphia Flyers had a lengthy win streak going and with the New York Rangers, Blue Jackets and Capitals surrounding the Penguins, the Metropolitan can easily be considered the league’s best division.
In fact, if things turn for the worst, one of the three teams at the top could easily become a wildcard team come playoff time. At this point, the division winner might not be determined until the final day of the regular season.
Fleury Gets Iced
A red-hot Fleury entered Wednesday’s game doing very well for himself and playing great hockey while Murray was out with injury. However, Wednesday night, the Capitals put him on ice and cooled him down. Washington’s offense is still one of the best, and it showed.
The Capitals’ ability to get around the Penguins ‘defense and charge the net was one of Washington’s biggest advantages. Making Fleury work from post to post gave the Capitals the advantage they needed on offense, and they were able to catch him off guard a few times.
It wasn’t a blowout loss, and Sullivan should still ride Fleury’s hot hand at least for another game or two to ensure Murray is back to 100 percent.
The end of the first half of the season is quickly approaching, and both goalies need to stay healthy for Pittsburgh to stay competitive at the top of the division.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will next travel to the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to play the Senators on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. EST.