PITTSBURGH – A horrendous turnover by Evgeny Kuznetsov in the second period proved to be the turning point Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 5-3. The game was the final game of the season series between the two rivals, with Washington dropping three out of four. The loss also snaps a seven-game winning streak for the Caps.
Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana were the lone bright spots after the game as Ovechkin tallied his 1,200th career point in an assist on John Carlson's goal and Vrana hit 20 goals for the first time in his career.
Here is the one reason the Caps lost.
Evgeny Kuznetsov's turnover
I could analyze each of Pittsburgh’s goals and go into detail over what happened, I could look into the number of missed offensive opportunities for the Caps, but the fact of the matter is there is one reason the Caps lost this game and one reason only.
At the halfway mark of the game, Washington was putting together one heck of an effort. The Caps were defensively suffocating the Penguins, especially in the neutral zone. Pittsburgh could not advance the puck into the offensive zone. When Jakub Vrana scored his second goal just past the halfway mark of the game, it looked like it was lights out.
And then one play changed the game completely.
Nick Jensen snuffed out Jake Guentzel along the boards and Evgeny Kuznetsov intercepted his desperation pass. With options to start the breakout, Kuznetsov was far too lackadaisical with the puck. He took far too long deciding where he wanted to go, and just when he made up his mind, Jared McCann pickpocketed him from behind turning the Caps breakout into a 2-on-1 for Pittsburgh. McCann quickly got around Orpik and passed to Guentzel for the goal.
From there it was a steady stream of one disaster after another:
- 47 seconds after Guentzel’s goal, Sidney Crosby tied the game at 2 with a one-handed breakaway goal
- 31 seconds after Crosby’s goal, Nicklas Backstrom was called for tripping Evgeni Malkin
- 30 seconds into the power play, Crosby scored his second goal of the night, snapping a streak of 18 straight penalty kills for Washington.
It all took just 1:48 for a 2-0 lead for the Caps to turn into a 3-2 lead for Pittsburgh. It was the clear turning point of the game as the Penguins took all the momentum from that point on and rode it to the win. Phil Kessel added an insurance power-play tally in the third period and McCann scored the empty netter to put it out of reach.
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