Kevin Gorman’s Take 5 on Game 3: Five thoughts on Capitals 4, Penguins 3
Their Stanley Cup second-round series with the Washington Capitals tied, the Penguins needed a momentum swing.
In Game 3, they got Geno.
1. For starters: If Mike Sullivan was saving Evgeni Malkin to give the Penguins a mental edge going into Game 3, it worked.
Malkin finally returned Tuesday after missing Game 6 at Philadelphia and the first two games at Washington with a lower-body injury.
The Penguins got off to slow starts and gave up the first goal within three minutes in each game, so it was important to have a strong start against the Capitals.
Or at least not give up an early goal.
Malkin was the last player to leave the ice in pregame warm-ups. As he skated off, the PPG Paints Arena crowd was serenading him with chants of “Geno! Geno!”
The biggest boost was the roar upon Malkin being the last player introduced in the starting lineup, a designation typically reserved for captain Sidney Crosby.
For a team that was 1-2 in the playoffs at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins got the home crowd into the game.
2. Malkin Milkshake: Malkin’s return also allowed the Penguins coach to stir up his line combinations.
The Penguins’ top line had accounted for 15 of 19 goals over the previous six games, so finding secondary scoring was a priority.
As expected, Sullivan had Malkin center the second line with Dominik Simon, but Bryan Rust replaced Phil Kessel. The third line was a surprise, with Riley Sheahan centering Zach Aston-Reese and Kessel. Derick Brassard was shuffled, along with Conor Sheary, to the fourth line with Tom Kuhnhackl.
It made little difference on the score sheet in the first two periods, as the Penguins got goals by Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist, the latter on the power play for a 2-1 lead at 6 minutes, 49 seconds of the second period.
Then things got crazy.
3. Shoulder and a shudder: When the NHL did nothing after Tom Wilson’s blindside head shot to Brian Dumoulin in Game 2, it invited the Capitals winger to do it again.
Wilson gladly accepted.
Leading with his left shoulder — he never hesitates on a chance to decapitate — Wilson delivered a blow that knocked Zach Aston-Reese to his knees and sent Wilson into the Washington bench.
A bloodied and bent-over Aston-Reese skated off slowly, his right shoulder drooping.
As the scoreboard showed a video replay of the brutal hit and the crowd booed, Wilson sat there with a smile on his face. Again, the officials didn’t call a penalty.
Then the Capitals added insult to injury, with a Chandler Stephenson goal 73 seconds later to tie the score at 2-2 at 11:04 of the second.
4. Cloning Crosby: After scoring his eighth playoff goal to tie for the NHL lead, Guentzel set up Crosby for his eighth goal.
Simply, Jake pulled a Sid.
From the left circle, Guentzel put on an impressive stick-handling display to undress Dmitry Orlov. Guentzel got control of a bouncing puck, slid it through Orlov’s legs and passed it to Crosby, who buried it for a 3-2 lead.
The protege is starting to look a lot like the master.
5. Ugly ending: The Capitals got the tying goal by Matt Niskanen at 5:06.
The winner was scored by Ovechkin with 1:07 left, a blow that took the air out of a building that was about to burst at the beginning.