Caps Drop Heartbreaker to Pens Losing Ground in Wild Card Race Originally Aired on NBC Sports Washington
Given their best opportunity to gain ground in the playoff race, the Capitals staged a strong comeback on Thursday night, erasing a three-goal deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins before a late third-period Evgeni Malkin goal put them 4th : 3 scuttled.
Washington went into play four points behind the Penguins to earn the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders, two teams in the mix, both lost by early afternoon. A win at the PPG Paints Arena would have breathed serious life into a Capitals team that started the weekend with a playoff percentage in the single digits.
The Penguins were in complete control for the first 45 minutes of the game. The Capitals had no answers for Pittsburgh goaltender Casey DeSmith, who stopped the first 25 shots he faced. On the other hand, the Penguins took a 3-0 lead with two goals, just 2:07 apart, in the second period and a power play equalizer after 27 seconds in the third period.
The Capitals generated plenty of chances early on in the five-a-side game but struggled to get past DeSmith even as they got behind the Penguins’ defense to create breakaways and odd-man rushes. Capital goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper did well to hold the away team. He was instrumental in Washington killing three of the Penguins’ four power play chances before ending the game with 36 saves on 40 shots.
With all three goals against him coming from a rush, Kuemper often found himself in difficult positions but managed to limit the Penguins to two goals in the five-a-side.
After trailing 3-0 early in the third game, Tom Wilson revived the Capitals with a four-on-four from the low slot. Evgeny Kuznetsov carried the puck behind the net and found Wilson up front with a round pass to beat DeSmith.
From there, the Capitals climbed back in. Alex Ovechkin scored the 299th power play goal of his career with a one-timer from his left circle office before Dylan Strome leveled the game with 2:44 left in regulation.
It looked like the Capitals had a chance to exit the arena with at least a point until Malkin capitalized on an Anthony Mantha turnover for the winner. The loss put six points between the Capitals and the Penguins with eight games remaining on Washington’s schedule. They will look to get back in the winning column on Wednesday when they host the Islanders at Capital One Arena.