Pittsburgh Penguins Lose to Capitals 3-1: Reaction & Game Analysis


The Pittsburgh Penguins were once again topped by the Washington Capitals tonight, falling 3-1 as they extended their winless streak against the Caps to three games.

After being shut out in the teams’ first two meetings, the Pens managed to get one on the board this time around, but still failed to find a ‘W’ against the rival Capitals.

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Washington’s captain and leading goal-scorer, Alex Ovechkin, netted the game’s first goal near the end of the first period – capitalizing on a neutral zone turnover from Pittsburgh’s Beau Bennett en route to a powerplay breakaway.

Coming down on Fleury all alone, Ovechkin pulled the puck to his backhand and roofed it for his 37th goal of the year.

The Pens answered in the second period as their fourth line tallied the equalizer – forward Steve Downie pounced on a rebound to tally his 10th goal of the season.

Pittsburgh came up short once again in the third period, however, taking eight penalties to give the Caps numerous chances at taking the lead.

And take the lead they did as Washington’s Joel Ward scored the Caps’ second powerplay goal of the game to take the score to 2-1.

John Carlson netted a shorthanded empty-netter in the final moments of the game to worsen the Caps’ blow.

Sparks also flew early in the third when Ovechkin delivered a menacing two-handed slash to the ankle of Pens’ defender Kris Letang, sending him to the ice in noticeable pain.

Though he remained down for some time, Letang was eventually able to skate off the ice unassisted.

After winning four of five games, the Pens have now dropped their last two contests.

The two losses exemplify a troubling trend that has persisted for much of this season. While the Pens continue to look strong against weaker clubs, they consistently fall when matched up against the league’s elite.

While the loss to the Blackhawks was simply a close game that could have gone either way, this one was tilted decidedly in the direction of the Capitals.

Teams in the Pens’ own division, specifically, have been a sore spot in Pittsburgh’s schedule. The Pens have won only a third of their games against Metropolitan division teams, going 7-10-4 thus far this season.

Injuries were blamed for the Pens’ struggles earlier in the season, but with a nearly fully healthy lineup now taking the ice, there’s little to be said for why Pittsburgh continues to fall to their fellow Metropolitan teams.

It is sure to become an issue come playoff time, however. Pittsburgh’s slide has them now sitting in third place in the division behind the New York Islanders and New York Rangers. The Capitals are now only one point behind Pittsburgh as well.

Though the Pens are not in danger of missing the playoffs, they are most definitely in danger of once again being ousted in the first round.

For a frame of reference, the division-leading Islanders hold a record of 19-3-0 against Metropolitan teams. The Rangers are 15-4-1 in the same category, and the Caps are 12-4-4.

At this point the Pens don’t look to be in the conversation of teams likely to go far in the postseason as, despite the strength of the team in terms of the league as a whole, they seem destined to be bitten by their own division woes when it matters most.

Pittsburgh will get another chance at the Caps on Feb. 25th, but will have a few games beforehand to sharpen up.

Their next test will come on Feb. 19th when they face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets.