For maybe the first time this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-4-2) looked to be in a complete daze. On Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals (10-4-2) were able to come out swinging and take advantage of Marc-Andre Fleury being called in to play in net.
The 7-1 loss marks Pittsburgh’s biggest loss to the Capitals in the Sidney Crosby-Alexander Ovechkin era. Matt Murray was given the start, but after catching a stick through his mask, he ended up finishing the night on the bench.
Washington head coach Barry Trotz did a great job preparing his team, and it was clear all that studying paid off. Not only did his team beat arguably the best team in the NHL, the Capitals were also able to pull closer to taking a lead in the division.
Not only was the Capitals’ offense clicking on all cylinders, goaltender Braden Holtby dominated and allowed only a single goal (by Phil Kessel). Washington’s biggest advantage of the night came when T.J. Oshie scored his second goal in just the third period to give his team a 3-0 lead.
After the demoralizing loss, head coach Mike Sullivan told the press, “The common denominator is we played a team that was more competitive than us tonight. We weren’t ready to play tonight.”
It could be as simple as the Penguins just not showing up and not playing for a few days. Fans will see the team’s true colors when Pittsburgh plays next time. Can they rebound and play like the team that’s taken the NHL by storm over the past month-plus?
Typically, Sullivan’s team is able to rebound pretty well, especially after big losses, so it’ll be important to see how the Penguins match up against the Islanders.
Another thing to keep an eye on is who will be getting more playing time in net. Following a frankly terrible game by Fleury, this could be the beginning of the end of him playing as a Penguin.
Metropolitan Division Review
With Wednesday night’s loss, Washington was able to pull ahead of the Penguins and take second place in the division. The Rangers currently lead the division with a 13-4-0 record and have 26 points on the season, compared to Pittsburgh’s 10-4-2 record and 22 points.
Quite a few teams in the division are still hanging close, including the Columbus Blue Jackets (8-4-2 and 18 points), but with the Rangers’ strong start, it may be difficult for teams like Columbus to take over first place.
Thus the Metropolitan division is proving to be one of the more competitive in the league, which makes for better — and more exciting — hockey down the line. The Penguins have a lot of work to do in order to topple the Rangers, but the season is still far from over.
Around the league, the Montreal Canadiens have had an equally strong start, leading the lead in points and have started to pull away in the Atlantic Division
The Penguins will next play against the last place divisional team, the New York Islanders. The game will be played Friday night at 7:00 p.m. EST in Brooklyn, New York.
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