Pittsburgh Penguins Hold Off Washington Capitals in Game 3; Take 2-1 Series Lead
The Consol Energy Center was the scene Monday night for Game 3 between the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After exchanging victories in the nation’s capital, both teams looked to take the upper hand in the series. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury suited up for the first time this postseason for Pittsburgh, but did not get the start in net.
Pittsburgh got out to a big lead with a number of workmanlike goals including one that bounced off the back of Tom Kuhnhackl. However, the real story for the Penguins was their goalie, Matt Murray, who started over Fleury. He picked a good time to have the game of his young career. He didn’t surrender a goal until the third period, when Washington staged a furious rally in a comeback attempt. All told, he finished with a career-high and new franchise playoff record 47 saves.
In the third, Alex Ovechkin fired a rocket top shelf to get the Caps on the board. With time running out, they had to pull Brayden Holtby to try and score two goals in the last two minutes. Ovechkin slapped a shot towards the net and Murray made the save, but the rebound came out to his right. Justin Williams was waiting for it and deposited it into the net with 53 seconds remaining.
The final seconds were hectic and included several icings by Pittsburgh, including one from Kris Letang that almost found the empty net, but left the home crowd gasping.
In the end, Murray and the Pens did just enough to hold onto this one.
Pittsburgh now has a 2-1 series lead with the next game to be played tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. If you look at the box score, it appears Pittsburgh gained control of this game and simply held the lead for the win. The stats, however, tell a much different story.
Pittsburgh was outshot 49-23. They were outhit by more than a 2-1 advantage and Washington had the slight edge in face-offs. Quite simply, if they play like this again they are more than likely going to lose. This was one of those games where the goalie can steal one for you. It happens often in the playoffs, but is not something a team can rely on.
The Pittsburgh Penguins need to get back to what they do best and control more of the pace of the game just as they did early on Monday night.
Wednesday night is going to be a battle because Washington wants nothing to do with a 3-1 series deficit. In the beginning, I predicted this series to go the distance and sticking with that, I’ll take Washington tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.