PITTSBURGH—The final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals sure was a memorable one.
After the Caps and Penguins combined for 14 goals in regulation, Conor Sheary scored the game winner in overtime, lifting Pittsburgh to a wild 8-7 victory at PPG Paints Arena.
How it happened: The Caps took a quick 3-0 lead on goals Andre Burakovsky, Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Williams, whose goal at 1:17 of the second period meant the visitors had outscored their opponents 15-0 dating to the previous Penguins game on Jan. 11.
It wasn't nearly enough. Because during a wild 11 minute span in the second, the prolific Penguins scored six of the game’s next eight goals—yes, six of eight, including an Evgeni Malkin hat trick. As a result, the Pens took a 6-5 lead into the final frame.
The third period was almost as crazy. Sidney Crosby stretched Pittsburgh’s lead to 7-5 early. But the Caps fought back with goals from T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller, whose second tally of the night with 5:22 left to play sent the game to overtime.
Sheary didn’t need much time to decide it. The Pens’ winger dived headfirst into a pileup in the Caps’ crease and somehow managed to get enough of his stick on the puck to push it underneath Philipp Grubauer and off of Matt Niskanen’s skate. After a brief review, officials determined there was no goaltender interference.
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What it means: The Caps’ winning streak came to an end at nine games. But they kept their spot atop the NHL because both Columbus and Minnesota were off.
Holtby’s night cut short: The reigning Vezina Trophy winner entered as one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, having recorded three shutouts in his previous five starts. Monday, however, was not his night. Trotz made a goalie switch after Holtby allowed a fifth goal on 15 second period shots, including goals by Bryan Rust and Malkin on back-to-back shots. Holtby yielded six goals on 27 shots.
Defense optional: The Caps came in allowing a league-low 1.91 goals against. So, yeah.
Unsuccessful challenge: After winning a coach’s challenge against the Blackhawks, Trotz tried again to have a goal overturned on grounds of goaltender interference. This time, however, it didn’t work. Officials ruled that Patric Hornqvist did not prevent Grubauer from doing his job on Malkin’s third goal late in the second period.
Holy O: The Caps have now scored five or more goals in four straight games and seven of the last 10. The seven goals against on Monday came from six different Caps (Burakovsky, Backstrom, Williams, Brett Connolly, Eller and Oshie).
Getting physical: Alex Ovechkin didn’t score a goal but he dished out a game-high nine hits. The Caps’ captain also notched a pair of assists.
Looking ahead: The Caps will not practice on Tuesday. They’ll return to the ice Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Arlington before departing on the annual Dad’s Trip, which will make stops in St. Louis and Dallas.
MORE CAPITALS: Eller pulls the Caps even at 5