Monday saw one game on the National Hockey League’s docket with the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Second Round Series. This was a throwback game to the days of fast hockey with heavy hits, and some of the best goaltending you may see for a long time.
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
There was no denying who the star of the game was in this one.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray stopped 47 shots, many of the spectacular nature, to carry his team to a 3-2 win over the Capitals and a 2-1 lead in the series.
“I thought Murray was really good in the first (period),” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought he was good all game really. I think he is the reason the Pens had success.”
Although the Penguins were not playing well, they had established a three goal lead then relied almost solely on Murray in the third period to preserve the win.
“They had the puck all night and we didn’t,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan observed after the game. “I thought they beat us to loose pucks. They outplayed us in a lot of aspects.”
Patric Hornqvist opened the night’s scoring giving Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead 6:37 into the game when he deflected Trevor Daley’s point shot past Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. Conor Sheary drew the secondary assist.
Exactly one minute later, Tom Kuhnhackl extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 2-0 when Matt Cullen’s centering pass deflected off a Washington defender’s stick and hopped up to hit Kuhnhackl’s back and landed behind Holtby. Kris Letang also assisted on the goal.
The Penguins maintained that lead into the intermission although the Capitals outshot Pittsburgh 14-8.
The Capitals picked up the pace in the second period and reeled off 14 more shots at Murray.
Pittsburgh finished the frame with just six shots but one eluded Holtby to increase the Penguins lead to 3-0. Carl Hagelin was the goal scorer assisted by Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel.
The third period showed why Washington won the President’s Trophy as the number one team in the League during the regular season. They came out with a vengeance. Controlling the play throughout the period and firing 21 shots at Murray.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-1 with his fourth goal of the postseason with a rocket of a wrist shot from the left half-boards that beat Murray to the far post. Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom were credited with the assists.
With Holtby pulled for the extra skater, Justin Williams deposited a loose puck into the open side of the net as Murray, who had stopped the first shot, was down and out on the other side of his crease. Williams’ goal made it a 3-2 game with 56 seconds to play in the period but time would run out on for Washington.
When it was all said and done, the Capitals sent 49 shots at Murray. Pittsburgh finished with 23 shots.
The teams combined for 83 hits as Pittsburgh was credited with 25 body checks and Washington dished out 58 hits.
It is becoming a nightly occurrence that there will be a controversial play when these teams meet and this night was no different.
At the 15:41 mark of the first period, Washington’s Marcus Johansson carried the puck into the Pittsburgh zone. As he passed the puck to his left, Letang stepped up and hit Johansson with what may be viewed as a late hit and as he followed through his shoulder appeared to come up under Johansson’s chin. The hit stunned the Capital and he remained on the ice but was able to get up and go to his bench. He did not need to leave the game.
In today’s NHL, Letang can probably expect a phone call from the League’s Department of Player Safety with the result being either a fine and/or a suspension.
“It was just a step up to hit him but no intention (to injure Johansson),” Letang said about the hit. “Things happen fast in the game. I’m trying to make sure he doesn’t go to the net after the play. It was a fast play.”
Game 4 is scheduled for Pittsburgh’s Console Energy Center on Wednesday, April 4th, at 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Stat of the night:
Murray is one of three Penguins goaltenders to make 47 saves in a regulation playoff game. The others to do so were Ken Wregget versus Philadelphia in 1997 (48 saves) and Tom Barrasso (56 saves) against Florida in 1996.
Tuesday’s Stanley Cup Schedule:
Game 3 – Eastern Conference Second Round – Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders 7:00 pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – Western Conference Second Round – San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators 9:00 pm ET (USA, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – Western Conference Second Round – Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues 9:30 pm ET (NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports)
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.