Washington takes advantage of Evgeni Malkin’s absence and sends the series back to Pittsburgh tied up at 1.
There are three guarantees in life: Death, taxes, and the Caps and Pens meeting every year in the playoffs. We’re getting used to seeing the Penguins advance every time, but Ovechkin and Holtby are trying to buck the trend.
Game 1 of this series was incredibly tight, with Pittsburgh barely squeaking by for a one-goal win. It was a dagger to the Caps who failed to capitalize on a Penguins lineup that was missing Evgeni Malkin. It was absolutely vital for them to take Game 2 while their opponents were still missing one of their superstars. Mission accomplished. Washington looked absolutely determined right from the outset of Sunday’s game.
This one never seemed out of reach for Washington. Ovechkin’s early goal set the tone and Pittsburgh only mounted sustained pressure for brief periods during the second and third. Halfway through the final period, Hornqvist was convinced he brought the Pens within one goal but was called off after extensive video review. A diving Holtby did a great job of robbing the cameras of a conclusive angle. With the forward momentum of the puck, you could have said the puck probably crossed the line at some point, but the right call was made with the replays the War Room had.
In the end, the Penguins’ undisciplined play late in the third kept them on the penalty kill and never allowed them to mount a repeat of their Game 1 comeback.
1. Braden Holtby – Holtby continues to improve on his lackluster regular season, proving that he’s still a No. 1 goalie. After losing his job at the start of the first round, he’s impressed since stepping back in for Grubauer. If he continues to outplay Murray, Washington absolutely has the ability to control the outcome of this series. He was a rock in this game, showing off tremendous athleticism and his underrated puck-handling abilities. He made a few great clears to steer the puck out of danger when Pittsburgh was pressuring.
2. Alexander Ovechkin – Who is more determined to win than Alexander Ovechkin? The Caps captain came out like a man on a mission, scoring just 1:26 into the first period. The goal was his seventh in just eight playoffs games so far. He continued to look dominant throughout the game, forcing Murray to make save after save to hold the Pens in it.
3. Jakub Vrana – At the start of the playoffs, I discussed the Capitals better offensive dynamic with Backstrom and Ovechkin finally split up. In Game 2, Barry Trotz experimented with the third line of Conolly-Eller-Vrana and it paid incredible dividends. This line was incredibly visible all afternoon, forechecking hard and providing many scoring chances. Vrana was front and center, also adding a power play goal that put the Caps up by two in the first.
The series shifts to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, May 1. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at the PPG Paints Arena.