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Capitals snap losing streak with impressive win against Penguins

Vitek Vanecek stands tall in net with 26 saves on 27 shots, while Richard Panik picks up two assists to help Washington pull off a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh to end a four-game slide to stay in the playoff picture.

The Washington Capitals have not always looked like themselves this season. They have not had their full roster of players at times, games have been rescheduled, and they entered Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins riding a four-game losing streak where they were a mess defensively.

It was on Tuesday where everything did a complete 180 for them as they put together one of their most complete efforts of the season in a 3-1 win.

Vitek Vanacek stopped 27 out of 28 shots in the win, while Conor Sheary, Jakub Vrana, and Lars Eller all scored goals for the Capitals.

The story of this game, though, was the way the Capitals simply took it to the Penguins for the final 50 minutes of the game.

Pittsburgh stormed out early with an early two-man advantage that saw them generate a ton of shots, including two that rang off the post behind Vanecek. But their inability to convert on that fast start or the early chances gave the Capitals time to get their skates under them and quickly turn the game in their favor. Washington ended up with a dominant edge in shots, scoring chances, and high-danger chances and never allowed the Penguins to get close to Vanecek.

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Pittsburgh did not finally break through with a goal until the final four minutes of the game when Zach Aston-Reese scored a goal that was aided by a Penguins player falling into Vanecek.

Because he was pushed in by a Capitals defender the Capitals elected not to challenge for goalie interference.

Other than that it was a thoroughly convincing effort at both ends of the ice by the Capitals. And it was not the superstars that did the damage. It was the line of Sheary, Eller and Richard Panik that determined the outcome. How good were they? In 10 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time (with a lot of it coming against the Sidney Crosby line) the Capitals held a 13-1 shot attempts advantage, a 10-0 shots on goal advantage, and a 2-0 goals advantage when that line was on the ice. It is nearly impossible to play a more complete game than that. In a game that your team wins by two goals, that is a pretty significant advantage.

For the Penguins, this game was a pretty significant step backwards after what had been back-to-back wins. They are now in the middle of a 29-game stretch going back to to the end of the 2019-20 season that has seen them win just six games in regulation. Being that dependent and reliant on overtime and shootouts is not a long-term recipe for success.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.