WASHINGTON -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray came up huge to preserve the third-period lead for Pittsburgh as the Capitals dropped Round 1 against their rival 4-3 on Sunday. Alex Ovechkin's five-game goal streak was snapped as Washington dropped its second consecutive home game in regulation for the first time this season.
Here is how the Caps lost.
A quick response
Washington was the better team for the first 10 minutes of the game and Lars Eller cashed in to make it 1-0. The Caps could not build on that lead or the momentum as Sam Lafferty scored just 68 seconds later.
Nicklas Backstrom had the puck pocked away in the neutral zone creating a counter-attack for the Penguins. Lafferty pounced on the loose puck and fired a shot from the top of the circle. Samsonov went to the butterfly, but Lafferty shot high, beating him over the blocker-side.
Samsonov plays fairly low, but perhaps he did not have much of a scouting report on Lafferty after he was just recalled. Either way, the shot beat Samsonov and completely shifted the momentum in Pittsburgh's favor after a strong start for Washington.
A tough first period for Samsonov
After getting beat by Lafferty, Samsonov was beaten again less than a minute later off an unfortunate play. John Marino passed the puck to Patrick Hornqvist right outside the crease. He redirected it to the front of the net and Samsonov got his stick to it, but tapped it back into his own net.
Samsonov rebounded well after the first period, as he typically does, and had a good game overall. That first period, however, was a tough one.
The Penguins were able to plant themselves in front of Samsonov and dominated the net-front presence in the Caps' defensive zone. Samsonov was called upon to make a number of big saves deep in his crease along the goal line, but it cost Washington twice.
Hornqvist was all alone in front of the net on his redirect goal and Dominik Simon took advantage in the second period as well.
Simon passed the puck from behind the net to Sidney Crosby for a sharp-angle shot, which Samsonov saved. Backstrom came to challenge Crosby, but there was no one else there to protect the front of the net with Michal Kempny on the back door. Simon picked up what was essentially an uncontested rebound, then backhanded a shot through the challenge of Kempny and through the five-hole of Samsonov.
Like Washington, Pittsburgh has an incumbent starter being outplayed by the backup. Tristan Jarry has been better than Murray this season, but Murray drew the start and turned in a terrific performance, turning aside 29 shots including 11 in the third period to maintain Pittsburgh's lead. He did give up two third-period goals, one to Kuznetsov and one to Eller, but he came up huge time and again in the final frame to preserve the win.
Murray also denied a breakaway opportunity for Jakub Vrana in the second period that would have tied the game at 2-2.
Too many penalties
Washington gave Pittsburgh six power-play opportunities for the game. While the penalty kill did well to kill off all six, that's still too many. That's 12 minutes in which the Caps' top offensive players were on the bench.
The most damaging penalty came midway through the third period. Washington was once again dominating, was outshooting Pittsburgh 8-2 and Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal pulled the Caps to within 3-2. Carl Hagelin tried to chip the puck off the wall around Chad Ruhwedel and gave him a shove for good measure, but his stick came up and hit Ruhwedel in the face giving Hagelin a minor penalty.
Once again, the Penguins were unable to score, but that was two fewer minutes for the Caps to continue pouring on the offense.
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