Kapanen leads the Pens to a win over the Caps with an OT blast

Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Penguins allowed the Capitals to earn a point in a lopsided contest, but Kasperi Kapanen blasted an OT winner to propel the Pens to a 3-2 victory Tuesday night

It took overtime to finish them off, but the Penguins swept past the Capitals, 3-2, to move within one point of the Caps for second place in the East Division this season. It was a bit of redemption for Kapanen, who saw just 17 seconds of ice time in the third period of his last game out.

Despite a 36-22 shot difference in the Penguins’ favor, the Capitals hung around, capitalizing on the Pens’ defensive errors, to force an additional overtime period. It didn’t take long for the Pens to strike.

Tristan Jarry sent a puck up the boards from behind the net, which was collected by Teddy Blueger. Blueger created a two-on-one chance with Kapanen, and a beautiful saucer pass past Capitals defenseman Demitri Orlov led to a one-timed snipe past Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek.

For someone who, according to head coach Mike Sullivan, might not have been bringing it the last time out, Kapanen certainly brought it for the game-winner.

The Penguins controlled play much of Tuesday’s contest, outside of a few defensive breakdowns which directly led to the Capitals’ goals. For the Pens to continue winning games this season, it’s going to take cracking down defensively because there is no goaltender excuse anymore.

Jarry played yet another great game, the two Capitals goals coming from the aforementioned defensive breakdowns, the @nhlpens Twitter account pointed out just how well Jarry has played recently.

The Penguins have won five of their last six games, and a lot of that credit goes to Jarry for his sudden return to form.

First Period – 1-0, Pens

Fresh off one of his worst games of the season, Evgeni Malkin jumped out in the first period with some pep in his step. He was rewarded with a defection goal in front of the net, a power-play goal no less, off a Kris Letang feed.

Letang played a little give-and-go with Jake Guentzel, drifted down into the zone and wristed a shot toward the Capitals’ net. Malkin was positioned well, alone in front of the net, and tipped Letang’s shot past Capitals’ goaltender Vitek Vanecek into the back of the net. 1-0, Pens.

The Penguins’ chance arrived courtesy of a goalie interference call from Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, possibly the make-up call from a bad Pens penalty after Mike Matheson was pushed into Vanecek and called for interference.

Two soft calls, but the Penguins killed off their penalty and the Capitals didn’t.

The Penguins held a strong shot advantage through the first period, and the scoreboard showed it, but they left some chances on the ice. And that’s the recipe for a blown lead most nights.

Second Period – 2-2, tie

Mike Matheson continues to be… exactly who we thought he was. He is, more often than not, a liability defensively while providing solid offense through his skating.

That hasn’t changed at all this season, and the Capitals’ first goal in the second period proved the fact. Caps defenseman Zdeno Chara fired a puck off the boards and teammate Richard Panik raced through Matheson’s shoddy defending, slotting a puck past Jarry, who was very deep in his net. It was pretty poor defending and maybe Jarry expected Matheson to win the battle, but Jarry offered little resistance. It was one of the few bad plays of his last few games. 1-1 through the early second.

It got worse when Pierre-Olivier Joseph turned to the puck over on a backhand up the wall, Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov collected the puck and fed fellow forward Conor Sheary, who slammed a one-time past Jarry to take the lead. 2-1, Caps.

The Capitals played Sherry by the Four Seasons for Sheary’s goal song, and that did make me laugh a bit. Respect for that.

Less than a minute later, Jake Guentzel made it known that despite playing in Washington, it will always be Guentzel-vania.

After cycling the puck through the offensive zone, Kapanen fed a puck to John Marino, who put a puck toward net. Guentzel maneuvered his stick into position, across his body, to deflect the shot past Vanecek from up high and lock the game back at two all.

A late tripping call on Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz on Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins their second power play of the game, but the Pens could not score a second PP goal. A 30-15 shot advantage through two showcased the Pens’ chances and defensive miscues.

Penguins’ commentator Bob Errey threw in a Jai Lai reference when discussing the curve on Ovechkin’s stick, and that was the obscure sports reference we all needed.

Third Period – 2-2, tie

The early portion of the third period trickled by without much consequence, until Jason Zucker caught his skate in a Capitals forwards’ skate and crashed into the boards roughly, requiring serious help to get off the ice.

I hate to speculate, but it appears that Zucker severely injured his leg in that unintended collision and it might mean a long-term absence for the second-line winger.

The third period featured a lot of back-and-forth action, five on five without many whistles. And despite being the better team on the ice for most of the game, the Capitals earned at least one point as the contest reached overtime.

It didn’t take much of overtime before the Blueger and Kapanen combo iced the Capitals.

Of course, even with a 4-1 record against the Capitals this season, they’re always a tough opponent. And they’ll get another crack at the Pens on Thursday, the last chance until April. So, you can expect some fireworks.

The puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on AT&T SportsNet for local viewers and ESPN+ for out-of-market viewers.

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What did you think of the Penguins’ win over the Capitals? Let me know in the comments below!