On Monday January 16, the Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the number 1 seed Washington Capitals. Absolutely no one was expecting the up and down game that might just go down as the best game played this season.
Coming into this Monday matinee, the Capitals were on their season high 9 game winning streak, averaging over 3.5 goals a game along with 3 shut outs over the streak (two by Braden Holtby, and one by Phillip Grubauer). Capitals winger T.J. Oshie was having his greatest stretch of the season and Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL first star of the week from the week before. Something only one Penguin has accomplished all season, that was goaltender Marc Andre Fleury.
The penguins coming into this game were on a three game losing streak, in which haven’t seen since last December. This was the first time the Pens have lost back to back regulation games since Mike Sullivan took over as head coach.
A week before the game, the Penguins lost to the Caps in Washington 5-2. They followed that game up with a terrible effort against the Ottawa Senators, which resulted in a 4-1 loss. The real heart breaker came against the Detroit Red Wings. The pens were at one point winning 2-0. That lead went away for a 6-3 loss and a Kris Letang injury.
Coming into the game, thing did not look good for the Penguins. The Caps were on a roll and the Penguins were slumping.
It sure seemed like that Caps would walk away with another win. The Pens kept turning the puck over, this meant scoring chances for the Caps and less zone time for the Penguin’s superstars. Andrew Burakovsky (who only seems to score against the Penguins) gets one fast and that’s followed up by the first star of the week , Nicklas Backstrom, getting his 13th of the year. Justin Williams would score early in the second to make it 3-0 for the Caps.
The Penguins fortunes would change. Patrick Hornqvist would lay a questionable hit on T.J. Oshie with no call. This sparked Evgeni Malkin to get his first of the game. Connor Sheary and Nick Bonino would both score to tie the game. Brian Rust would bounce a puck right off of Alex Ovechkin’s skate and past the toe of All-Star goalie, Braden Holtby. Malkin would get his second of the game mid way through the period to chase Holtby from the net.
The Caps would score two quick goals to tie the game, but right before the 2nd period would end, Malkin got his first hat trick of the season. 9 out of the 15 goals in this game were scored in the second and 6 penguins goals were scored in that period. Sidney Crosby would get his 27th goal of the season from a sweet pass from Connor Sheary. But, like the Caps do, they came back to tie the game at 7.
In overtime Connor Sheary would end the game when he and Crosby were digging at the front of the net. This game turned into an instant classic.