PITTSBURGH – This was a winnable hockey game for the Capitals, that is certain. But when time ticked down in regulation and the third line of Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson and Joel Ward were out on the ice for a 65-second shift the Penguins took advantage.
“Last thing I said going out for the third is, ‘You’ve gotta know how much juice you’ve got in the tank because, we played last night. They didn’t,’” Oates said. “We blew it. On both goals I thought we should have changed. We didn’t. Got caught a little tired and when you’re tired you make mistakes and they’ve got great players.”
With that line and the top defensive pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, who had been on the ice for 33 seconds, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin went on a rush around the offensive zone. From the top of the right circle, down below the goal line all the way around to the top of the left circle drawing the attention of all five Washington skaters on the ice.
As the Capitals watched and a few began to give chase they collapsed around the net, so when Malkin fed the puck to rookie defenseman Olli Maatta at the point they had precious little time to recover. Joel Ward went out to challenge the shot but Maatta faked the slapper, pulled up to avoid the forward and then snapped a shot from the top of the left circle.
Taylor Pyatt was creating a screen in front of Neuvirth long before the shot was released — he was there when Malkin sent the pass on to Maatta. Neuvirth, who said he never saw the shot, was in the middle of the crease with plenty of space left open short side. The puck found its way to the back of the net with 1:54 left to secure a 4-3 Penguins win over the Capitals.
“The whole shift [Malkin] looked like the guy on the ice that was fresh, he was elusive and we chased him behind and we ended up — they broke us down. When guys can protect the puck and carry it for that long a period of time obviously we’re going to front the shot. Wardo’s going to front the shot, [Maatta] makes a good move. Then before you know it you’re just getting a little bit out of position, they had a good screen it goes in.”
Oates was most frustrated by the players not coming off the ice for a line change even as their shift continued on, something he said occurred on both of the Penguins’ final two goals.
“It’s responsibility for guys to come, you’re yelling to change and [players] get caught up in the moment [thinking], ‘Maybe we can get one more rush out of it,’” Oates said. “When you do you’ve got to be able to get back. You can’t gamble — there’s mistakes. It’s a shame because you played a good hockey game.”