PITTSBURGH (AP) The Washington Capitals played their most complete game of the season against one of their biggest rivals.
Conor Sheary and Jakub Vrana scored in the second period, and the Capitals stopped a four-game slump by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Lars Eller also scored for Washington, and Vitek Vanecek stopped 26 shots in his 11th straight start.
“It’s hard to lose a hockey game, especially when it’s the fourth,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think the effort was really good tonight. It seemed like everyone was ready, marked and ready to play. ”
Pittsburgh won its first five games at home, including three against the Capitals. Zach Aston-Reese set a career-high with his third goal in as many games, and Tristan Jarry made 39 saves for the Penguins.
Washington allowed 22 goals during its losing streak. That included six on Sunday against Pittsburgh in the Capitals’ first game in a week thanks to a series of postponements related to COVID-19.
The Capitals were in top form Sunday after more than three weeks of COVID-19 list outages. They wore the part two nights later, securing their first win this month.
After an even first period, the Capitals scored twice and outscored the Penguins 18-5 in the second.
Sheary, who spent four seasons in Pittsburgh, opened the scoring at 4:52 with his third goal of the season. Sheary took a pass from Richard Panik and hit Jarry with a wrist shot from the side of the glove from the bottom of the circle.
In seven career games against Pittsburgh, Sheary has five goals. Panik’s attendance was the 100th of his career.
Pittsburgh, which has been behind in each of its 14 games this season, hit two posts during a pair of first-quarter power plays, and Vanecek stopped Brandon Tanev on a low-handed breakaway in the second.
“I thought we had the start we wanted,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ” We hit two posts. If we score there, the complexion of the game changes dramatically. I thought the power play was really good early in the game. The record just didn’t come in for us. ”
Vrana scored his second goal in as many games at 11:31. Vrana, shortly after the Capitals’ third power play of the period expired, took a cross pass from TJ Oshie and beat Jarry to the glove side.
Eller gave the Capitals a 3-0 lead just 1:09 in the third. The Capitals took advantage of a defensive collapse, with Panik finding Eller, who fired a shot past Jarry.
Sullivan felt the game changed in the second period when the Penguins were forced to kill three penalties.
“We spent almost half the period killing penalties,” Sullivan said. “It takes the guys out of the flow of the game and it gives Washington a boost even when they don’t score. We certainly didn’t help each other in the second period with the amount of penalties we received. ”
OVI IN PREVIOUS CHECK
Alex Ovechkin’s key defensive backcheck helped set up Washington’s second goal.
After the Capitals’ third power play in the second, Ovechkin, who was out for an extended two-minute inning, ran back and dove to break a 2-on-1 pass from Pierre-Oliver Joseph to Tanev. Moments later, Vrana scored in transition.
“At that point in the game, a goal the other way would have been pretty devastating, especially with four losses in a row,” Oshie said. “He was skating as hard as he could and still couldn’t get there. He found a way to get up there, dive in and make the play. For us, going down and scoring was a great point in the game. ”
RANDOM CAPITAL LINE
The Capitals shuffled their top two lines to give Pittsburgh a different look.
Vrana and Ovechkin switched positions on the left wing. Ovechkin started with Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov, while Vrana was joined by Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson.
“There were a lot of things that I liked the last game,” Laviolette said. “We just needed to clean it up a bit. Overall, it was pretty good. I thought tonight was cleaner. ”
WELCOME BACK PETTERSSON
Pittsburgh activated defender Marcus Pettersson from injured reserve. He missed the previous nine games with an upper body injury after he was injured against Washington on January 19.
Defenders Brian Dumoulin and Juuso Riikola are out of the lineup. Riikola missed his 10th straight game and Dumoulin was out for the seventh in a row. Pittsburgh seated defender Chad Ruhwedel in favor of Pettersson.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
The Penguins host the New York Islanders on Thursday. The penguins close February with six games against the islanders or the capitals.
The Capitals open a five-game homestay Thursday against Buffalo.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.