Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Another classic between Penguins, Capitals
That the reigning Stanley Cup champions played in the season opener at PPG Paints Arena is something to which we’ve become accustomed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins raised banners the past two seasons.
This time, the honor belonged to the visitors.
There was nothing ceremonial about the Penguins playing the Washington Capitals, the same team that ended their season last May in this building. The only thing missing was Tom Wilson, the Capitals’ head-hunter who is serving a 20-game suspension.
Not that anyone in Pittsburgh missed him.
But, like their last meeting, this one would go into overtime.
1. Beating the odds
Raise your hand if you had Jamie Oleksiak scoring the Penguins’ first goal of the season.
On a team with three of the NHL’s top-10 scorers, the 6-foot-7, 255-pound defenseman was the first to tally.
Oleksiak had five goals last season, four of them after being traded from the Dallas Stars to the Penguins.
What were the chances?
2. Now that’s just odd
That lead didn’t last long, as Jakub Vrana snuck a rebound from the right slot to tie it at 1-1 at 3:30.
The Capitals took a 2-1 lead 48 seconds later on the most unexpected of developments.
Brooks Orpik scored.
True, he scored the winner against Vegas in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. But regular-season goals are a rarity for Orpik, the definition of a stay-at-home defenseman.
3. High-stakes Jake
Four months off did nothing to slow down Jake Guentzel’s hot hand.
After scoring 10 goals in 12 playoff games, including four in Game 6 at Philadelphia, Guentzel got off to a strong start by twice tying the game.
It was Guentzel’s first two-goal game since, well, Game 4 of the second-round series against the Capitals last spring.
When Guentzel scored the tying goal, the PPG Paints Arena crowd serenaded Holtby in hopes to unnerve him with a Johnny Cueto-like cheer.
And it worked.
4. Brass goal
The arena eruption when Derick Brassard scored the go-ahead goal in the second period was only exceeded by the excitement of the center’s celebration.
Brassard was the Penguins’ big trade-deadline acquisition last season, addressing their need for a third-line center with a player who had been a top-six performer with Ottawa.
He mostly disappointed.
But Brassard was positioned perfectly in the crease on Dominik Simon’s shot from the point and redirected it off Holtby.
If you were thinking what I was thinking, it’s that more goals like that from Brassard in the playoffs could have helped the Penguins beat the Capitals in their second-round series.
But that one was cathartic and a promising sign Brassard’s strong preseason play has carried over.
5. Shots on goal
It wasn’t a good night for the two goalies who have combined to win the past three Stanley Cup titles.
The Capitals scored three goals on their first four shots, so Matt Murray got a Bronx cheer when he stopped the fifth shot.
That seemed to get Murray going, and he stopped one from point blank and made a skate save on a backhand before allowing John Carlson to score on a two-on-one breakaway in the second.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.