Capitals romp over Penguins on Backstrom's 5-point night
T.J Oshie adds 4 of his own as Marc-Andre Fleury gives up 5 goals in relief of injured Matt Murray
Determined to get out of their recent funk and motivated to measure up to the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals took out their frustrations in a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
The score was indicative of just how lopsided the game was as the Capitals got two goals and three assists from Nicklas Backstrom and two goals and two assists from T.J. Oshie. They scored short-handed, at even strength and on the power play and skated the Penguins out of the building in the rivals' second meeting of the season.
"We played really quick tonight, we got on their D-men," said Backstrom, who tied his career high with five points. "We were hungry out there and we won battles and obviously we scored on our chances, too. That's huge."
.<a href="https://twitter.com/backstrom19">@backstrom19</a> finishing off a 5 point night in style. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CapsPens?src=hash">#CapsPens</a> <a href="https://t.co/a1OHI8XQjn">pic.twitter.com/a1OHI8XQjn</a>—@Capitals
Washington had lost two in a row and three of four and didn't look at all like a team that lost in overtime Tuesday night at Columbus. Alex Ovechkin ended his four-game point drought with his eighth goal of the season, and Dmitry Orlov and Justin Williams also scored.
Ovechkin got a scare when he was taken down by Kris Letang in the second period, leaving the ice briefly before returning a few minutes later. He said his arm went numb but that he was healthy enough to come back and contribute to the blowout.
6-0! I don't know what to do with my hands 👏👐☝️🖐 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CapsPens?src=hash">#CapsPens</a> <a href="https://t.co/V98ZLLv3mn">pic.twitter.com/V98ZLLv3mn</a>—@Capitals
"It's nice to see when we play like that, we stick together and we don't give them anything or much," Ovechkin said. "It's a good sign."
It's a bad sign for the Penguins to put up that kind of effort despite being rested. Pittsburgh allowed a short-handed goal to Oshie early and took nine minor penalties as things fell apart.
4 points and counting for <a href="https://twitter.com/TJOshie77">@tjoshie77</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CapsPens?src=hash">#CapsPens</a> <a href="https://t.co/ioScr5Vk7d">pic.twitter.com/ioScr5Vk7d</a>—@Capitals
"These games are humbling," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "We were embarrassed out there tonight, all of us."
Cup-winning goaltender Matt Murray left the game late in the first period after teammate Evgeni Malkin accidentally hit him in the head when he was trying to shove Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner. Murray said he went through the NHL's concussion protocol and was medically cleared to return, but Sullivan opted to stick with Marc-Andre Fleury out of an abundance of caution.
After Murray allowed two goals on 14 shots, Fleury gave up five goals on 25 shots. Phil Kessel scored the Penguins' only goal in garbage time as they lamented a wasted game.
Caps' offensive explosion
"It's a couple my faults, a couple penalties," Malkin said. "We're not ready today. Washington lost last two games. They're hungry. They deserved this win."
The Capitals didn't let up and poured on the points as the Penguins' penalties and mistakes added up. Twelve different players had at least one point, and the beleaguered power play got some much-needed practice and went 2 for 7, scoring at 4-on-3 and 5-on-3.
No matter the source of the offensive explosion, this was the kind of game Washington would like to play on a regular basis.
"We played fast," said goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 25 of 27 shots. "We didn't stop skating all night. Just watching the last couple games, it seemed like we were just missing a couple strides here and there to keep that team speed up. Tonight guys were committed. I think it was a game where we realized we need to be better and play more to our identity."