09 May, 2017
Couple Washington's inefficiency with the fact that the Pens were down two noted starters, and Game 4 belonged to Pittsburgh long before the final score - and the intensity of the game's final minutes - suggested things might swing the other direction.
Crosby suffered a concussion when he was cross-checked in the head by Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen.
Will a player such as Jake Guentzel, who leads all NHLers in the post-season with seven goals, be almost as effective without Crosby on the ice with him?
Crosby took line rushes with wingers Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist.
He is the most talented player on the Capitals roster and they need him to provide as much offense as Sidney Crosby does to the Penguins. That included stints without Crosby and others without Malkin, and Sullivan is familiar with effectively patching holes.
But his absence Wednesday made the Penguins' offense opportunistic in a different way. "It's going to be a challenge, but we're going to have to band together and figure out a way to do it". All are suitable adjectives to describe Wednesday's loss for the Capitals.
Just over a minute later, Nate Schmidt ripped a shot past an out-of-position Fleury to tie the game. Full stop. Niskanen got the shaft of his stick up because the culture of the National Hockey League has taught him that this is an acceptable way to brace himself. Washington has pumped 142 shots at Fleury through four games, almost 50 more shots than the Penguins have managed the other way (93).
The Capitals and Penguins have two days between games as the action shifts to Washington on Saturday night.
Rendered a backup most of the season behind Matt Murray, Fleury is now Pittsburgh's most vital player, one who seems to thrive in the face of Washington's incessant pressure. He was held off the scoreboard for the fourth time in five playoff games. The Capitals insist they'll be ready. They also scored two of their three Game 3 goals on the power play.More news: Ballistic missile test-fired from California coastal base
"I would say our top players didn't play as well as they need to be", Trotz reiterated. He also acknowledged that would be hard without Crosby in the lineup.
"Right now, we've got to find an extra way to get an extra goal, we've got to get an extra save, and our top guys tonight weren't as good as they needed to be", he said. "But we've got [Malkin], we've got Phil [Kessel], whoever else steps up on that unit". "All we did was get our home-ice back".
Already up 1-0. the Penguins had two powerplays before the period was over.
Edmonton, which rallied to tie Game 4 on a last-minute, power-play goal from Drake Caggiula, can not be happy about such a sudden series turnaround. That came after John Carlson was called for the Capitals' third offensive-zone penalty (roughing).
Short of that miraculous ending, however, forward Alex Ovechkin will surely shoulder the brunt of the blame - he always does - for this latest letdown. Sidney was at the team's practice facility earlier in the day.
In this edition of the hotstove, we discuss whether or not the Capitals still have a chance of beating the Penguins and advancing to the conference finals. But here wasn't much more than that.
"It means everything", Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said of winning without Crosby. ". Power plays and special teams are such a big part of today's game".
We'd all love to see him back sooner rather than later. He has 1.32 points per game when Crosby is not in the lineup, compared to 1.15 when Crosby dresses.
"That can be tough", Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said of Orlov's misfortune. Overall this postseason, he's tied for fifth in goals with four (in 10 games) and 15th in points with seven. Horqnvist is not known for speedy skating, but neither are Orpik and Alzner. He could miss the rest of this series. Most of all, the defense needs to play defense.