Given the tenor of the last game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, a penalty-filled affair in the teams’ final regular-season meeting in Washington on Wednesday night was hardly unexpected, but the way the penalties were handed out in the Penguins 4-3 victory over the Capitals was anything but expected.
Instead of fights and roughing, it was hooking, holding, tripping and cross checking as referees Kelly Sutherland and Justin St. Pierre called an extremely tightly whistled game, sending players to the box 17 times with minor penalties.
The Penguins gained an advantage during the ensuing special teams showdown, scoring once on their six power play opportunities, and when the Capitals had the man-advantage, the Penguins killed off all five chances and added a shorthanded goal of their own.
Patric Hornqvist got the scoring started with an even-strength tally at 7:04 of the first period, with assists from Evgeni Malkin and David Perron.
Shortly after, the whistles started blowing. Capitals forward Tom Wilson, who had confronted Evgeni Malkin during pregame warmups, drew the ire of the Blake Comeau in the area between the benches while teams were changing lines.
Comeau ended up dragging Wilson into the Penguins bench and mayhem ensued, with Comeau, Wilson, Steve Downie and Michael Latta earning roughing minors. Afterwards, the Capitals earned three straight power play chances to close out the first period, but the Penguins penalty killers held strong, and then some.
At 18:33 of the period, Brandon Sutter forced a neutral-zone turnover and came in undefended on Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. Sutter took it to the backhand and put it past the Washington netminder to extend the Penguins lead to two.
With just 8.9 seconds remaining in the period, the Capitals answered back when John Carlson made a perfect, long slap shot off the post and in behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr assisted.
In the second period, the parade to the penalty boxed switched sides as the Capitals took four consecutive penalties at one point. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored the game’s only power-play goal at 3:16 of the period. It was Crosby’s 20th goal of the season.
The teams traded goals through the third period. The Penguins had a hard time tracking on the back-check and Chimera barged past Rob Scuderi to get a good chance on Fleury and Troy Brouwer scored on the rebound at 4:09 of the third.
Scuderi, incidentally, left the game with seven minutes remaining and did not return. He had missed some time earlier in the game after blocking a shot with his foot. No update on his condition was immediately available.
Chris Kunitz regained the Penguins’ two-goal advantage at 7:12 of the third after a spectacular play by Evgeni Malkin to drive the length of the ice and back off the defense and Kunitz muscled his way to the front of the net and put in Blake Comeau’s rebound.
Alex Ovechkin got on the board – and put the final in doubt – with a power-play goal at 16:26 of the third, with Downie in the box serving a Marc-Andre Fleury roughing minor, but the Penguins defense held the rest of the way.
Photo credit: NHL