Early in the third period Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals pounced on a tired Penguins team playing its second of back-to-back games. Leading the effort to add to the lead was the fourth line and Matt Hendricks.
Since Coach Dale Hunter took over, Hendricks and players on the fourth line haven’t seen much ice time. The same was true against the Penguins, but they were the group to help push Washington forward in the final frame and on to a 1-0 win.
“I thought the shifts they had there in the third period gave us a lot of energy,” Hunter said. “They came out, cycled and wore their D down. I thought the fourth line did a great job tonight.”
For Hendricks, the shift began with 2 minutes and 55 seconds elapsed in the third period. Just eight seconds after stepping on the ice, Hendricks snapped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury that clanked off the right post, near the elbow. It was the second consecutive game that Hendricks, who has just one goal this season, came agonizingly close to putting the puck over the goal line. In Los Angeles, he had a shot that went off goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s mask and over the net as well.
But back to the win over the Penguins. Hendricks’s shot was the beginning of a 55-second shift where the Capitals hemmed Pittsburgh in their end, laid out a few hits and wore their foes down. The sellout crowd at Verizon Center roared in approval each time they caught one of the Penguins’ clearing attempts and forced those in black and gold to stay in their defensive zone longer.
They might not have scored on the shift, but the fourth line helped provide the boost the Capitals needed to finish off the game.
“I think they were tired, first off, and I think we got our opportunities,” Hendricks said. “We had some shots and we can hem a team in there, especially playing back-to-back nights, it’s tough. I’ve been there. It’s tough to move your legs, it’s tough to get the puck out. I thought we had some energy there, took advantage of it had some good shots, some good opportunities. Unfortunately we didn’t get one.”