The Pittsburgh Penguins have been finding many ways to win games during their winning streak, one of those being secondary scoring. They continued to get just that Tuesday night in their 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals as they extended their streak to 10 games.
The defensemen stepped forward for Pittsburgh in a big way Tuesday night as they got goals from Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen.
With the game tied 1-1, the Capitals had a chance to take the lead midway through the third period when Matt Cooke was called for boarding Alex Ovechkin and received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Pittsburgh was able to kill the double-minor led by a few stellar saves by goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery.
The Penguins took a 2-1 lead after being short-handed for four minutes when Cooke stepped out of the penalty box and joined the rush on a 3-on-2. Cooke fed Niskanen who cruised down the middle and wristed the puck past Washington goaltender Braden Holtby.
“That was pretty exciting,” Niskanen said in his post-game interview with ROOT Sports Pittsburgh’s Dan Potash. “I think everyone took it upon themselves as a challenge, Flower made a couple of nice saves and we were able to get a goal there.”
It was Niskanen’s second goal of the year for the Penguins who were looking for this type of production from their blue-liners with Kris Letang out of the lineup with a lower-body injury.
“That was the loudest I think I have heard the [crowd] this year,” Martin said in the post-game. “I think we have that confidence and belief in the guys that if we go out and give a good effort every night then we can find a way to win.”
The capacity crowd at the Consol Energy Center watched a very entertaining opening period with scoring chances going back and forth. Both teams got solid goaltending in the first period with the Penguins leading the shot department 11-10 at that point.
Washington drew first blood in the second period when Chris Kunitz was called for tripping at 13:11. Ovechkin notched his 12th goal of the season on the powerplay to give the Capitals the 1-0 advantage.
Minutes later, the Penguins responded on a powerplay of their own when Martin ripped a one-timer from the blue line with four seconds remaining on the penalty to Jason Chimera. Martin’s 6th of the season tied the game at one.
With the win, the Penguins completed the 3-game season sweep against the Capitals and improved their record to 23-8-0 (46 points) as the top team in the East. They currently have a three-point advantage over the Montreal Canadiens, who lost in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night.
The Pittsburgh defense has been getting it done at both ends of the ice lately allowing just six goals in the last six games.
“I think everyone is just committed to it,” Niskanen said. “It’s been a focus all year but we’re getting better at it now and our goaltenders have been awesome.”
Fleury finished the game recording 28 saves and earned his league-leading 16th win on the year.
Penguins’ center Sidney Crosby assisted on both goals in the game to raise his season total to 50 points, giving him a 10-point edge on teammate Kunitz who ranks second with 40 points.
With the loss, Washington dropped five of their last seven games and will continue to face a tough schedule with six of their next seven games on the road.
Pittsburgh will travel to Long Island to face the New York Islanders Friday night before enjoying a five-game home stand.
Tonight’s 3 stars:
3- Braden Holtby; G, Capitals- 34 saves
2- Marc-Andre Fleury; G, Penguins- 28 saves
1- Matt Niskanen; D, Penguins- GW goal
Game Notes: Capitals’ center Brooks Laich made his season debut after sitting out all season with a groin injury; Penguins’ center Evgeni Malkin is skating and is hoping to make a return Friday night against the Islanders.