Just one night after an emotional opener and a dominant win in Washington, Thursday’s game had a very different feel as the Caps were forced into a sloppy track meet against the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps managed to erase a two-goal deficit in the third period to earn a point, but they ultimately fell in overtime 7-6.
Here’s why they lost.
1. Tired Legs
Teams have to play the schedule they are given and back-to-backs are part of every NHL team’s schedule, but there’s no question the schedule makers did the Caps no favors by giving them a game in Pittsburgh the night after their season-opener in Washington.
Not only did the Caps have an emotional opener on Wednesday, but the second leg of the back to back came against their biggest rival, a team hungry to get after Washington since the Caps ended the Penguins’ season in May.
The tired legs for the Caps were obvious and had a huge impact all night as a Washington team that had looked so fast and so organized on Wednesday suddenly were forced into multiple mistakes in a sloppy game. That was especially evident in the penalties as the Caps gave up six power plays. The penalty killers managed to kill off four of those opportunities, but not the overtime game-winner.
2. Jake Guentzel
Per usual, Guentzel always seemed to be at the right place at the right time as he had a monster game against the Caps on Thursday. A Daniel Sprong shot deflected off the stick of Dmitry Orlov and right to Guentzel for the slam dunk behind Holtby. Guentzel added a deflection goal in the second period as well.
For a Pittsburgh team that boasts players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Guentzel was their best player all game.
3. Derick Brassard
Brassard was essentially a non-factor in the Caps-Penguins playoff series last season with only one assist in six games. He was a deadline acquisition and looked like he struggled to adjust to his new team. On Thursday he looked much more like the player the Penguins thought they were getting last season.
Brassard was fantastic all night and gave the Caps’ defense fits. He fired a game-high six shots on goal and finally got free behind the defense in the second period allowing him to collect a rebound and stick-hand around a helpless Holtby for the goal.
4. Quick Feet from Crosby
The best skater on Washington is Evgeny Kuznetsov, but Sidney Crosby showed some quick feet as well in overtime. He managed to take the puck inside on Kuznetsov and looked like he was in alone on Holtby, forcing a hook from Kuznetsov to prevent the opportunity. Kris Letang would score on the resulting power play to finish off the game just over a minute later.
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