Penguins overwhelm struggling Capitals 5-2
PITTSBURGH – The Washington Capitals have had a lot of problems this season.
Lately, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of them.
The Penguins scored five goals in the second period and beat the Capitals for the second time in five days, 5-2, before 18,650 at the Consol Energy Center Thursday night.
“That second period was a lot of fun,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We generated a lot of chances and capitalized on them.
The Penguins have a five-game winning streak and have also won six of their last seven games.
Three of the goals came on the power play as five different players scored. Crosby had Evgeni Malkin each had a goal and two assists. Crosby extended his scoring streak to six games (two goals and 10 assists) and moved into a tie for second in scoring in the NHL.
Washington actually led 1-0 on Mike Ribeiro’s goal at 4:12 of the first period. A collision in the crease knocked goalie Marc-Andre Fleury down and dislodged his mask, giving Ribeiro an open net and easy goal.
But the Penguins answered with five goals in just over 12 and a half minutes. The power play succeeded despite the absence of quarterback Kris Letang, who was sidelined with a lower body injury.
“We’ve been working on the power play a lot,” winger James Neal said. “We stuck with the game plan and I think we wore them down.”
Malkin scored the tying goal on a power play at 6:59, taking a cross-ice pass from Crosby, then patiently waiting, picking a corner and putting a shot over goalie Michal Neuvirth’s glove.
“That was as good a shot as I think you’re going to see,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was an impressive shot.”
Pascal Dupuis made it 2-1 at 12:49 when he was able to whack a bouncing puck between Neuvirth’s pads.
That led to a goalie change, but the Penguins were just as relentless against replacement Braden Holtby.
Neal scored his seventh on a power play at 16:33. He took Chris Kunitz’s pass, skated along the goal line, then pulled back and slipped a backhander under the sprawling Holtby’s body.
Brandon Sutter won a faceoff at 16:44 to set up Matt Cooke for a one-timer. Crosby closed the scoring at 19:38 when he batted Malkin’s rebound in on a power play.
Bylsma called it a “single up the middle,” referring to the baseball-like swing Crosby took.
“We just made the most of our opportunities,” Crosby said. “We had some good looks and made them count.”
Bylsma praised the work of defenseman Paul Martin, who took some of Letang’s power play duty.
“Paul was really good tonight,” Bylsma said. “He distributed the puck really well and that was a big factor.”
Bylsma also lauded defenseman Dylan Reese, who made his NHL debut after being recalled from Wilkes Barre. Reese, who grew up in Upper St. Clair, was signed as a free agent during the summer and got his call to Pittsburgh after Ben Lovejoy was traded to Anaheim on Wednesday.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Bylsma said. “He can skate well, he went back for pucks well and you saw him do a lot of good things, alleviating pressure in the defensive zone. He’s played a lot of games in the NHL and it looked like it tonight. He did a great job.”
Reese had played 74 previous NHL games with the New York Islanders. He became the fourth Pittsburgh area native to play for the Penguins. He played 14:07 and blocked two shots.
“It’s an awesome opportunity,” Reese said. “It’s just a great feeling. It was a great experience, a great feeling, and most importantly we won the game.”
Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal in the third period for Washington, which fell to an NHL-worst 2-8-1.
It was the Capitals first loss in regulation in Pittsburgh since Feb. 18, 2007. They had been on a 8-0-2 streak. … It was just the second time in 11 games that the Penguins didn’t score the first goal. … The last time the Penguins scored five goals in a period was Jan. 5, 2011 against Tampa Bay at home. … Four of Neal’s seven goals have come on the power play. … The Penguins open a home-and-home series against the Devils in New Jersey Saturday at 1 p.m..