Earlier than this season started I went on document as saying that, whereas I hoped our Penguins would make the playoffs, I wasn’t in any respect certain we’d.
Fact be advised, I didn’t suppose we had been a playoff group. The competitors was too sturdy. Along with his seemingly scatter-gun method to signing free-agents, I didn’t really feel then-GM Jim Rutherford had sufficiently addressed our wants throughout a moderately turbulent low season.
How mistaken I used to be.
In some ways, final night time’s 5-4 time beyond regulation victory over Washington was a microcosm our season. It wasn’t textbook by any stretch, we made loads of errors and yielded a probably crushing game-tying objective with 15 seconds remaining in regulation play. But we additionally displayed our extraordinary character and resilience.
The sport didn’t begin out so sizzling from a black-and-gold perspective. Simply previous the seven-minute mark the Caps capitalized (pun meant) on the man-advantage, because of a puck-over-the-glass penalty to Evan Rodrigues. Former Pen Justin Schultz blasted a one-timer from middle level that was deflected dwelling by long-time nemesis T.J. Oshie.
I confess to worrying. Whereas the Capitals seemed to be absolutely invested, there appeared to be an absence of hop and urgency on our half, particularly whereas defending in our personal finish. Then Kasperi Kapanen struck like a bolt from the blue and adjusted the tenor of the sport.
With lower than 5 minutes remaining within the opening body, Nicklas Backstrom inexplicably handed the puck from the half-boards to the center of the ice in his personal zone. Like a predatory cat Kapanen pounced, selecting off Backstrom’s bobble and beating Vitek Vanecek excessive to the glove facet.
The Pens grabbed their first lead at 8:32 of the second interval courtesy of some good work by the fourth line. Colton Sceviour fed Jason Zucker, who in flip discovered Frederick Gaudreau within the slot. Taking part in in his first sport since April 11, Freddy reached again and in a single fluid movement swept the puck previous Vanecek.
Sadly, the lead was short-lived. Thirty seconds later Dmitry Orlov hammered a redemptive feed from Backstrom off the submit and in. Then the ex-Pens struck once more, with Schultz organising Daniel Sprong (keep in mind him?) with a reasonably shot-pass for a handsy deflection in conjunction with the online.
Three-two, unhealthy guys.
With the ice beginning to tilt within the mistaken course, our boys as soon as once more confirmed their mettle. Sceviour made a powerful play alongside the wall to drive a turnover and fed a brief move to Zach Aston-Reese, who slipped behind the Caps’ protection. Stone-cold of late, ZAR beat a slow-reacting Vanecek via the five-hole to knot the rating at 3-all heading into the second intermission.
Cue “Kappy.” Halfway via the ultimate body, Jared McCann discovered the flying Finn with a protracted lead move off the wall. Kapanen turned Zdeno Chara into the world’s largest pylon and burned Vanecek with a gorgeous shot excessive to the quick facet.
Man, does this child have expertise.
The Pens had ample alternative to place the Caps away, particularly after ex-Flyer Michael Raffl took a holding penalty at 15:35. Sadly, our guys couldn’t fairly get ‘er accomplished, both with the man-advantage or on subsequent cracks at an empty internet.
We all know how that goes. With 15 ticks remaining, we someway conspired to depart Tom Wilson unattended mere ft from the online. Evgeny Kuznetsov discovered him with a pointy move out of the nook. Tristan Jarry had no likelihood.
A crappy flip of occasions, to make sure. However our never-say-die boys shook off the misfortune. Turning lemons to lemonade, Jake Guentzel beat Vanecek with a buttery redirect at 2:11 of time beyond regulation to salvage a win and a hard-earned postseason berth.
The Caps outshot the Pens, 37-35, and had the sting in bodily play, outhitting us, 32-14. Garnet Hathaway tried to choose off Sidney Crosby on the Caps’ blue line, however on the final millisecond Sid noticed him and slipped the test.
9 Penguins registered not less than a degree. Kapanen paced the assault with two objectives, giving him 10 on the season. Along with his world-class wheels and ending expertise, he’s solidly constructed and might play an influence sport.
Guentzel will not be the second coming of Patric Hornqvist in relation to offering a net-front presence. (Nobody is.) However he certain wields a magic wand in relation to tip-ins and deflections. Is that this child a hockey participant, or what?
McCann and Sceviour picked up two assists apiece, the latter in simply 6:19 of ice time. Cody Ceci, Mike Matheson and McCann every completed a plus-two.
On the flip facet, Brian Dumoulin was a group worst minus-two. Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Crosby every logged a minus-one.
Gaudreau changed Mark Jankowski, who was a wholesome scratch. Rodrigues exited within the first interval with what at first seemed to be a critical foot or ankle damage. He’s at present listed as day-to-day.
Sprong’s objective was his eleventh of the season and fourth in three video games whereas subbing for Alex Ovechkin.
The Pens and Caps are tied for first within the MassMutual East with 69 factors apiece. The Islanders are in third (65 factors), adopted by Boston (64) and the Rangers (58).
*Make sure to take a look at Rick Bukers books,
out there at TriumphBooks.com,