If you had to boil down the playoff history of the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins into one game, Game 1 certainly seemed to fit the bill.
The Capitals had their chances, they got good performances from star players and all of it came to naught as they were once again foiled by the Penguins in a 3-2 loss.
Here's how Washington let this game slip away.
3 Reasons Why the Capitals lost Game 1 to the Penguins:
1. Missed chances
The Caps were buzzing in the first period.
Already up 1-0, Dmitry Orlov and Alex Ovechkin had an opportunity to add a second goal early on a 2-on-1. Orlov faked the shot then passed to Ovechkin who had a wide open net to shoot at…but he missed. Ovechkin doesn’t miss too many of those shots. Despite how good the Caps looked in the first period, they got only six pucks through to goalie Matt Murray and took only a 1-0 lead into the dressing room. In the second period, Devante Smith-Pelly was denied an empty net rebound by Murray (more on that later). We all knew the push was coming. We’ve seen this all play out before.
Simply put, Washington did not convert on its opportunities when they had control of the game. A two-goal cushion was not enough to take the wind out of Pittsburgh's sails nor was it enough to survive the three-goal flurry that was to come.
2. A five-minute snowball in the third period
When the push finally came, it came fast.
In a stretch that lasted for less than five minutes, Pittsburgh scored three times to turn a 2-0 Caps lead into a 3-2 deficit. Patrick Hornqvist deflected in a shot from Justin Schultz at 2:59, Sidney Crosby netted a pass from Jake Guentzel at 5:20 and Guentzel got a deflection goal of his own at 7:48. That is a span of 4:49. Pittsburgh’s momentum snowballed into three quick goals which carried them to the win.
Braden Holtby was brilliant for 55:11, but those 4:49 were enough to doom the Caps.
3. Matt Murray
As good as Holtby was, Murray was better. Despite allowing a goal just 17 seconds in, he recovered very well in what was a 32-save performance. You can put some of this game on Washington’s inability to convert on its chances, but you also have to give credit to the Penguins’ netminder as well who came up with some big-time saves to keep his team in it. The biggest was in the second period when he extended the arm and blocked what looked like an easy goal for Smith-Pelly with the glove of his blocker.
As hard as it was to beat Murray when the Caps were ahead, he was unbeatable when his team finally gave him a lead to work with.
MORE CAPITALS vs. PENGUINS NEWS:
- Three Stars of Game 1: Ovechkin shines in defeat
- Inside Game 1: How a former Capital helped the enemy
- Inside the Series: To rewrite history, Caps need to avoid 0-2 hole
CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST: GAME 1 vs. PENGUINS