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Monday, May 2, 2016

Game 3 Preview: vs Washington Capitals - May 2, 2016

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-2) vs Washington Capitals (5-3)
May 2, 2016 @ 8:00 PM - Consol Energy Center
TV: NBC Sports Network
Series Tied 1-1

The series returns to Pittsburgh tonight evened up at one game apiece after the Penguins were able to deny Braden Holtby's best attempts to steal Game 2 in a 2-1 win over the Capitals. After grabbing the home-ice advantage away from Washington, the Pens head into Game 3 with all the momentum, especially considering the way they were able to control possession and make the Caps' offense look largely ineffective. If Barry Trotz can't figure out a way to limit the Pens in transition while also generating zone time and quality chances in Pittsburgh's zone the series could get away from the Capitals in a hurry.

If the story of the 2009 postseason meeting between these two teams was Sidney Crosby vs Alexander Ovechkin, then it's worth noting how both Crosby and Ovechkin have taken a back seat to the depth of their teams in 2016. Through two games only an Alexander Ovechkin assist on a T.J. Oshie goal in Game 1 has prevented the two from both being held off the scoreboard, and each team can hold on to the belief that there's more in the tank once they get their captain clicking offensively. With the series shifting back to Pittsburgh, Mike Sullivan might choose to free up the Crosby line to take advantage of the bottom of the Capitals' lineup.

Trough the first two games, Washington has had no answer for the third line of Carl Hagelin-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel as the trio has combined for 2 goals and 5 assists over the first two games of the series. It's the type of depth scoring that the team hasn't received in recent season when things weren't going well for Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and it allows them to be a more consistently dangerous team. It's certainly helped that they've been able to turn to Matt Murray this season with Marc-Andre Fleury still dealing with the lingering effects of a late season concussion. Murray stumbled at times during Game 1, but for the most part he's been lights out in the playoffs, posting a 0.939 SV% and 1.74 GAA in his 5 starts. The moment certainly hasn't been too big for the 21-year-old rookie, and most of the time he's been able to provide a big save when the Pens needed it the most. With his strong play, Murray has forced the conversation over who deserves to be in net when Fleury is cleared, and at the very least he gives MAF a chance to shake off the rust before getting back into game action.

Projected Lines


- Brooks Orpik has been suspended 3 games for his late hit to the head of Olli Maatta in the opening minutes of Game 2.

- Pascal Dupuis has been named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy along with Jaromir Jagr and Mats Zuccarello.

- Evgeni Malkin has scored in each of the 6 games he's appeared in this postseason and leads the Penguins with 9 points (3g, 6a). Nick Bonino also has an active scoring streak heading into tonight's contest after scoring 1 goal and adding 4 assists over the past four games. It's helped tie Bonino with Sidney Crosby for 2nd place in postseason scoring on the Pens with 8 points apiece.

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