Lars Eller (0-3—3) had the gifted playmaking hands in Washington’s 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at Capital One Arena as the Capitals evened the Second Round series, 1-1.
Similar to Game 1, the Capitals scored the game’s first goal early in the first period as Alex Ovechkin (7) rocketed one past Murray just over a minute into the game. The goal was unassisted at 1:26.
Holtby initiated a breakout from Washington’s defensive zone with a pass up the ice to Lars Eller. Eller connected Jakub Vrana (1) with the puck on his stick and Vrana brought it point blank before firing a shot high-glove side past Murray for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
Eller (1) and Holtby (1) notched the assists on the power play goal and the Capitals had a 2-0 lead late in the first period.
At least, the Capitals thought they had a two-goal lead at 14:54 of the first period until Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, almost put a stop to that, having used his coach’s challenge on the goal on the basis that Brett Connolly made enough contact with Murray prior to the goal being scored that would otherwise negate the goal (on the count of goaltender interference).
The goal was reviewed and the call on the ice was confirmed. Vrana had indeed scored his first career postseason goal and Pittsburgh lost their timeout.
Entering the first intermission, Washington was leading, 2-0, and outshooting the Penguins 2:1 (20 shots on goal to Pittsburgh’s 10 shots on goal).
Connolly (1) found himself on a breakaway early in the second period after collecting a stretch pass from Eller and fired a shot on Murray’s glove side. Despite catching a chunk of the puck, the vulcanized rubber biscuit deflected off of Murray and into the twine behind the Penguins netminder.
In what was yet another first, Connolly, had his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Capitals had a 3-0 lead at 2:08 of the second period. Eller (2) had his second assist of the afternoon.
Just past the halfway mark of the second period, tensions continued to escalate between the division rivals after the whistle as Patric Hornqvist and Dmitry Orlov began mixing things up with the gloves firmly glued onto their hands.
Both players received matching roughing minors and play continued.
Kris Letang (2) found the back of the net behind Holtby at 13:04 of the second period and put the Penguins on the scoreboard— cutting Washington’s three-goal lead to two.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Capitals led, 3-1, and shots on goal were even (26-26). Washington led in hits (29-26), takeaways (12-3) and giveaways (12-3), while the Penguins dominated the faceoff dot, winning 58-percent of the faceoffs taken through two periods. Pittsburgh was 0/1 on the power play and the Caps were 1/1 on the man advantage after two.
T.J. Oshie was guilty of interfering with Crosby early in the third period.
Pittsburgh thought they had found revenge on the scoreboard after Crosby wrapped around the goal, fired the puck off the side of the net and Hornqvist banked it off of Holtby’s right leg pad.
However, there was no indication on the ice that a goal had been scored, nor was there a signal (red light) from the goal judge behind the glass in the first row of seats. The play was immediately reviewed.
Although it appeared as if the puck had crossed the line and gone in from an angle that NBC showed on television, the league determined otherwise.
The call on the ice was confirmed after review. There was no conclusive angle, despite the fact that white space could be seen between the puck and the goal line from the aforementioned NBC angle. Yet, there was a snow pile on the goal line (making things difficult) and the overhead camera angle was further inconclusive.
Perhaps now is the time to reference once again that game back in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, whereby Calgary… Well, let’s not bring up those memories and instead make a quick plug for goal line technology to be implemented— considering it’s 2018 and all.
Additionally, technically speaking, shouldn’t the ruling have been “inconclusive” instead of “confirmed” since there was no indication prior to review that a goal had not been scored?
It was a rough few minutes for Kuznetsov after the goal that never actually happened, as Letang had held him (and received a minor penalty) and Derick Brassard had tripped him up (also a minor penalty).
Despite not converting on the man advantage, Kuznetsov took it upon himself to commit the next penalty (slashing against Letang) and see if Washington’s penalty killing units were any better.
Sullivan pulled his goaltender for the extra skater with about two minutes remaining in regulation.
Matching roughing minors for Devante Smith-Pelly and Hornqvist forced Murray back into the goal briefly as the Penguins had to work the puck out of their own zone.
With roughly 80 seconds left in regulation, Murray, once again, vacated the net and Pittsburgh looked to do the impossible.
Washington put the game away with an empty net goal thanks to Backstrom (3) with about seven seconds remaining. Wilson (4) and Eller (3) had the assists on the goal that made it, 4-1, Capitals and assured the home team of the win in Game 2.
After 60 minutes had been played, Washington tied the series, 1-1, with a 4-1 victory and trailed in shots on goal, 33-32. The Caps led in blocked shots (31-24), hits (33-31) and giveaways (17-4). The Pens led in faceoff win percentage (56-44) and finished the afternoon 0/3 on the power play. Washington went 1/3 on the man advantage in Game 2.
The series shifts to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night. Puck drop is expected to be a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and United States viewers can tune in on NBCSN. Fans in Canada can get their share of the action on Sportsnet or TVAS2. The winner of Game 3 will take a pivotal 2-1 series lead.