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Sidney Crosby scores twice to lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Washington

Sidney Crosby scores twice to lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Washington

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 3

How it happened: Both teams looked pretty even to start as they felt one another out in a goalless first period. Things did not start well in the second. Caught too far up on the opening faceoff, the Caps gave up the first goal of the game to Sidney Crosby just 12 seconds in. Crosby would score his second of the game less than a minute later to make it 2-0 just 1:04 into the second. Washington was on its heels so they got physical. Dmitry Orlov crushed Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson leveled Evgeni Malkin and the team seemed to feed off of both hits leading to an Alex Ovechkin goal late in the period. Evgeny Kuznetsov tied that game at 2 in the third period, but Nick Bonino put Pittsburgh back on top for good just 4:31 later.

What it means: With the Game 1 loss, Washington yielded home-ice to the Penguins and now face what many will call a must-win Game 2 in Washington before the series shifts to Pittsburgh. This marks the first time this season the Caps have lost to the Penguins in regulation.

Goals

Penguins goal: Sidney Crosby from Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist at 0:12 in the 2nd period. Matt Niskanen pinched up the ice immediately on the faceoff to open the second period. A turnover in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 for Pittsburgh with Guentzel feeding Crosby for the one-timer. Caps 0, Penguins 1

Penguins goal: Sidney Crosby from Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist at 1:04 in the 2nd period. Maatta fired a slap shot from the blue line that Braden Holtby was unable to glove. Hornqvist was there for Pittsburgh to collect the rebound and feed to a charging Crosby for the goal. Caps 0, Penguins 2

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie at 18:17 in the 2nd period. A big hit from Dmitry Orlov on Kuhnhackl seemed to ignite the Caps as did a hit from John Carlson and Evgeni Malkin less than a minute later. Carlson’s hit dispossessed Malkin of the puck and Oshie carried it into the offensive zone and dropped it back for Eller. Eller tipped it to a nearby Ovechkin who was allowed to walk in to the top of the circle without being challenged. The result shot beat Marc-Andre Fleury to the top shelf. Caps 1, Penguins 2

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Matt Niskanen at 8:05 in the 3rd period. A prolonged offensive attack and the constant movement of the Caps allowed for Kuznetsovy eventually to get free. Niskanen corralled the puck and pulled off the cross-ice pass to Kuznetsov who was able to tap it in past a helpless Fleury. Caps 2, Penguins 2

Penguins goal: Nick Bonino from Scott Wilson and Ian Cole at 12:36 in the 3rd period. Justin Schultz held the puck behind the Penguins' net, passed to Cole who made a stretch pass to Wilson who was along the boards. Wilson went into the offensive zone drawing Kevin Shattenkirk then chipped the puck to the center for Bonino who was in alone on net. Caps 2, Penguins 3

Caps stars

1. Dmitry Orlov: Crosby's two goals took the wind right out of the Caps' sails and the team seemed to lack energy for most of the second as a result. That changed when Orlov knocked Kuhnhackl to the ice. The Penguins bench was upset as they felt the hit was high, but the point of contact was not the head and the referee did not deem it worthy of a penalty.

2. Alex Ovechkin: There were some frustrating moments in which Ovechkin was forced into traps along the boards and he took an early penalty, but Washington needed him the most and desperately needed a boost, he was there to give them the goal and put them on the board.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznetsov needs to be a factor in this series if the Caps hope to win and he was in Game 1. He registered 10 shot attempts, four shots on goal and scored the game-tying goal in the third. He did not score a single goal in last season's series against Pittsburgh.

Look ahead: The series remains in Washington for Game 2 on Saturday. It will then shift to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

Watch the game? Tell us what you thought!

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Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

ilya_samsonov_scout_pruski.jpg
Scout Pruski

Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will Ilya Samsonov play in his first season in North America?

What else is there to say about Samsonov's time in the KHL? In the limited action he saw playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he looked every bit the starting goalie the Caps hoped he would one day be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Now, finally, he is ready to start his North America career.

What makes the transition from Europe to North America difficult?

First, Samsonov is adjusting to a new country and a new language. Second, the workload in North America is much larger, even in practice.

"He probably saw more shots today than he saw in a month of practice in Russia and this was nothing," director of player development Steve Richmond said during development camp. "For me, that's the biggest thing for him is to learn how to practice in North America."

And then there's the rink size. The game is faster for goalies in North America because of the smaller rink. Scoring chances develop much more quickly and Samsonov will also be dealing with different angles. It also means dealing with a lot more traffic in front of the net. He is going to have to learn more how to track the puck through a screen and to react much more quickly.

I tried to watch Samsonov closely in development camp. His size definitely stood out. He takes up a lot of the net, but is still very athletic and very quick in and out of the butterfly. As big as he is, however, he seems to play very low to compensate for his size which leaves him vulnerable up high at times. He would make a handful of very good saves, then let in a soft one glove side or in the corners because he was playing too low.

Those areas of his game can be improved on with practice so long as you have the skill and Samsonov certainly has that.

Samsonov has been elite at every level he has played and there is no reason to think that won't continue in the AHL. Having said that, there is just too much he needs to adjust to expect him to be ready for the NHL at this point. He needs as much playing time as possible at the AHL level before he is ready. As long as that's where he spends the season, I expect him to put up similar numbers to the 2.31 GAA, .926 save percentage he managed last season in the KHL.

Other key Caps questions:

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Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

There are no signs of Alex Ovechkin slowing down heading into his first season after winning a Stanley Cup. Bovada just released their latest odds for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s Most Valuable Player Award) and Ovechkin was tied with the third-best odds to win in all of the NHL at 10/1.

He was joined by two other Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov both at 50/1 odds. 

Here are all the odds for the top 11 players:

Connor McDavid          10/3
Sidney Crosby              13/2
Auston Matthews        10/1
Alex Ovechkin               10/1
Jon Tavares                   10/1
Taylor Hall                     15/1
Nikita Kucherov            15/1
Nathan MacKinnon      15/1
Mark Scheifele              15/1
Anze Kopitar                  18/1
Evgeni Malkin                18/1

The only two players ahead of ‘The Great 8’ are the 21-year-old McDavid and dreaded rival Crosby.

Even with the immense amount of alcohol that has been consumed in the past two months, Ovechkin is still commanding respect in Vegas. It is hard not to when he turns around these intense offseason workouts. At 32, Ovechkin led the NHL in scoring with 49 goals a year ago, the seventh such time he has done so. 

Already the 2018 Conn Smythe winner has three MVP trophies to his name (one more than Crosby) and there is no telling what to expect now that the 11-time All-Star has a Stanley Cup title. 

In his 11 years in the league, Backstrom has never received any votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kuznetsov only has done so once and that was in the 2015-16 season. 

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