Capitals start fast, finish strong in 5-2 win over Penguins originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
For weeks now, the Capitals have bemoaned their starts to games as they’d have to either rally from behind for the win, or their comeback attempt would come up short.
Thursday, they put together one of their best starts, and best performances, of the season in a 5-2 win over the Penguins at Capital One Arena.
The Capitals scored about midway through the first period, and after they lost a 2-0 lead in short order, tallied a power play goal and two empty-net goals to put the game to bed. But perhaps more importantly, it was one of the most complete games of the year — which began with their first period.
“I thought that was definitely one of our best starts of the season, something that we were kind of struggling with as of late and it’s something that we were really trying to focus on,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “I think we definitely came out and I think we built off that throughout the game and it was a pretty solid overall 60 minutes beside the little hiccup in the third there.”
Nicklas Backstrom put the Capitals ahead 1-0 in the first period, an opening frame they certainly held control for.
At five-on-five, the Capitals had 21 shot attempts and allowed 15 for a Corsi-For percentage of 58.33 and outshot the Penguins 11-9. They allowed the Penguins to get shots from in tight on goaltender Vitek Vanecek, whose statline was unblemished until the third period.
Even with the lead, the Capitals turned up the pressure in the second period, cut down on allowing high-danger scoring chances and outshot the Pens 13-7.
“I think the start is extremely important in this league,” winger Tom Wilson said. “When you can make a team feel overwhelmed early on, that’s huge. Especially a team like that who gains momentum off of offensive play. I think we did a good job playing in their end for most of the night.”
Just two Capitals (forwards Lars Eller and Richard Panik) were outshot when on the ice at even strength on Thursday.
“I feel like it’s getting better and better and today was just a step in the right direction, too,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Last game was maybe not our best, but I feel like we’re playing a 60-minute hockey game tonight and playing really good as a group. That’s what you’ve got to do in this league to be successful so I think building off this can be a great thing.”
Coach Peter Laviolette referred to the fact that it’s rare, if ever, a team dominates the game for a full 60 minutes. Against the Penguins, a team with such quick-strike ability, that’s especially tough.
That was tested when the Capitals allowed two Penguins goals exactly three minutes apart which tied the game. But a power play goal from Wilson gave the Capitals (10-5-4) a much needed win over the Penguins, not just for the standings, but for affirmation of not only how they started, but how they finished.
“I think we played well enough to win and we felt good about our game and when they scored those two goals, we didn’t want to change anything,” Wilson said. “We just wanted to bounce back. Good teams find a way through adversity. The response was good. We played well enough to win and I think we deserved to win tonight and we found a way.”