Fast-forward almost nine hours later, and the Capitals got off to another slow, uninspired start and were left with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins at Capital One Arena. Kasperi Kapanen’s one-timer on a two-on-one with Teddy Blueger was the difference 1:43 into OT, preventing Washington (9-5-4, 22 points) from securing two standings points.
“The first period we were jumped a little bit,” Laviolette said. “They were just quicker than us, so that’s definitely something that we will talk about in regard to the next game we have against them. . . . The games against Pittsburgh, you got to compete at a higher level.”
The score was tied at 2 to close the second period before a tight-checking third settled nothing. It was the third time in five meetings that the teams needed overtime to determine a winner. The most recent time the Capitals beat the Penguins in overtime during the regular season was 2011.
“We don’t like losing to those guys,” forward Tom Wilson said. “These are big points, big games, and I think if we put a little more emphasis into the full 60-minute game, maybe we can get an upper hand and get a goal lead or something like that. That being said, if it goes to OT, we’ve got to get it done. But it’s a bit of a crapshoot at that point.”
The Capitals will play the Penguins for the sixth time this season Thursday at Capital One Arena before back-to-back contests this weekend at New Jersey. Washington, which debuted its “Reverse Retro” jerseys Tuesday, is 1-1-3 against Pittsburgh this season. The Capitals believed they played their most complete game of the season in the teams’ previous meeting — a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh seven days earlier — but that didn’t carry over.
On the other side, Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan felt Tuesday night was one of his team’s most complete games. Pittsburgh outshot the Capitals 37-22.
“I thought we were playing the game hard,” Sullivan said. “We were trying to play the right way. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but there aren’t too many games that are. But I thought from top to bottom we were playing hard.”
Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring for the Penguins with his backdoor redirect of Kris Letang’s point shot at 6:41 of the first period. It came on Pittsburgh’s first of two power-play chances on the night; a vocally displeased Alex Ovechkin had been called for goaltender interference moments earlier.
Washington, meanwhile, had no shots on goal during its two power-play chances. That unit was 3 for 4 on Sunday in a comeback win over the Devils. Laviolette said the power play’s poor showing was similar to the team’s five-on-five struggles.
“They play fast,” Wilson said of the Penguins. “They have skill. They use each other well. They make plays. When we have the puck, they close quickly and they make you feel like you don’t have a lot of room. But we know that we’re a good hockey team, too. I think we’ve got to make our plays when they’re there, play with confidence and start to dictate the pace a little bit.”
Capitals winger Richard Panik tied the score at 1 at 4:38 of the second period with his second goal of the season. He drove to the net and went backhand to forehand against Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson before slipping it past goalie Tristan Jarry. Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara had provided a nice cross-ice feed off the boards seconds earlier.
Winger Conor Sheary gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead with his snipe from the right circle off a slick feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov with 6:42 left in the second. But the Penguins tied the score at 2 only 22 seconds later with Jake Guentzel’s deflection of John Marino’s point shot.
Washington rookie Vitek Vanecek was in net Tuesday night after 39-year-old Craig Anderson made his first start with the Capitals on Sunday. Before that, Vanecek had made 13 straight starts; he had 34 saves Tuesday night.
Ilya Samsonov remains on the taxi squad, and Laviolette said Tuesday morning that the 24-year-old Russian could start for the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, on Wednesday. Samsonov has not played an NHL game since Jan. 17 after he tested positive for the coronavirus Jan. 19. He played two games for Hershey last week.