Mike Sullivan knows his team is ”wired” for offense Johnny Townsend Jersey Elite
, as tends to happen when you have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and – increasingly – Jake Guentzel on your roster.
Yet the Pittsburgh Penguins have proven during their two-year run atop the NHL they know what they’re doing at the other end of the ice, too, playing with a discipline that’s more grit than glamour.
Their hopes for a historic three-peat remain alive because of it.
Guentzel scored twice and the Penguins held Washington star Alex Ovechkin without a shot on goal for just the third time in 107 career playoff games to grind out a 3-1 victory in Game 4 on Thursday night to even their typically taut Eastern Conference semifinal.
Pittsburgh held Washington to three shots total in the third period.
”It’s like we played Game 7 tonight,” said Malkin, who scored from his belly late in the second period to put Pittsburgh in front to stay. ”Unbelievable.”
Well. Not exactly.
This is what tends to happen when the two longtime rivals meet in the postseason. Washington edges ahead and the Penguins respond immediately, one of the main reasons Pittsburgh is 9-1 all-time against the Capitals in the playoffs.
Plenty of work remains to be done for Washington to shrug off the weight of its ignominious history and for the Penguins to push their bid for a three-peat to the next round. Yet Pittsburgh laid down the blueprint over three periods that were decidedly tamer than the Game 3 chaos caused in large part by Washington forward Tom Wilson’s illegal high hit that left rookie Zach Aston-Reese with a broken jaw and led the league to suspend Wilson for three games.
While Sullivan downplayed the impact of Wilson’s absence, the pushing and shoving was largely kept to a minimum save for a scrap between Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Washington’s T.J. Oshie as Guentzel skated down the ice to flip in an empty-net goal with 58 seconds to go.
For the Penguins, the stakes – as they so often have during Sullivan’s tenure – far outweighed any search for retribution.
”We understood it’s a huge game for us,” Malkin said.
Instead the teams head to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday night all tied up, the ninth time in 11 postseason meetings the series will go at least six games. Same as it ever was.
Oshie scored Washington’s lone goal – a shot from the slot on the power play 12:55 into the second that knotted the score at 1 – and Braden Holtby finished with 21 saves but the Capitals couldn’t sneak anything else by Murray, who stopped 20 shots just two days after putting together an admittedly ”shaky” performance in Game 3.
The guys in front of Murray made his job relatively easy. The Penguins blocked 13 shots and rarely let Washington put together any sustained pressure.
Devante Smith-Pelly replaced Wilson on the top line with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov http://www.dolphinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-jason-sanders-jersey
, but Pittsburgh kept the clamps on. Ovechkin failed to put a single puck on net, though Washington coach Barry Trotz downplayed Ovechkin’s ineffectiveness.
”Trust me, Ovie will get his shots,” Trotz said.
He’s going to have to if he wants to keep pace with Guentzel. A year after scoring a playoff-high 13 goals while helping the Penguins to a second consecutive Cup, the slender 23-year-old is once again thriving in May.
Guentzel gave the Penguins the lead 9:21 into the second period when he stood on the doorstep and banged home a rebound of Dominik Simon’s shot for his ninth of the playoffs and his 20th point of the postseason. Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier in 1988 are the last two players to reach 20 points in 10 or fewer postseason games.
”I just kind of feel like the (pucks) are going in right now,” Guentzel said.
Guentzel has a league-leading 10 playoff goals, joining Mario Lemieux as the only NHL players to reach double digits in their first two career postseasons.
The 23-year-old, however, is still learning. He committed a slashing penalty after putting the Penguins in front, and Oshie’s shot from the slot 12:55 into the second tied it.
Malkin went to his belly to put Pittsburgh back in front with 2:33 to go in the second. The Russian star flung himself at the puck during a scrum in the crease, the puck just flitting over the goal line following a scramble. There was no initial goal call on the play, reminiscent of a sequence in Game 2 in which the red goal light remained unlit after Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist jabbed at it from in front.
Replays in Game 2 proved inconclusive and the Capitals held on. This time Authentic Alex Ovechkin Jersey
, the review was kinder to the Penguins. Video clearly showed the puck inching across the line, and it stood after the Capitals challenged claiming goalie interference.
”It’s a good goal, we’re happy,” Malkin said. ”Sometimes it’s a bad call against us. Sometimes it’s a good call. But we’re looking at the next game. We understand it’s not over.”
NOTES: Crosby also failed to get a shot on goal but had two assists. … Pittsburgh F Carl Hagelin played 16:11 while wearing a full face shield in his return from an upper-body injury that forced him to miss the first three games of the series. … The Capitals have scored a playoff goal in nine of 10 playoff games. … The loss was Washington’s first on the road in the playoffs (4-1). … The Capitals were 1 for 3 on the power play. The Penguins were 2 for 4.
More NHL hockey: Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa set an NFL record with 19 sacks in his first 20 career games.
He recorded at least 10 1/2 sacks in each of his first two seasons, but Bosa and the Chargers insist the best is yet to come.
"I think there's so much I have to work on that I have an idea in my head of what I want things to look like and how I want to be as a player, and I'm not anywhere near those things, but I know I'm making the right steps in that direction," Bosa said Sunday.
Cornerback Casey Hayward has never been shy in sharing his belief that Bosa could become the best defender in football. It was only reinforced last season as Bosa's pass rush skills helped contribute to Hayward intercepting four passes.
"Made my life a lot easier," Hayward said. "A couple of my picks last year came off Joey hitting the guy, wobbly ball, I take all of them."
Entering his third season, the next step in Bosa's development could come from a better understanding of coordinator Gus Bradley's 4-3 defense. The Chargers were productive in 2017 while transitioning to Bradley's system Authentic Vincent Trocheck Jersey
, finishing third in points per game allowed, tied for fifth in sacks, and sixth in takeaways. Those rankings could improve as the coaches, players and front office are more comfortable with what will allow the defense to succeed in this iteration.
The Chargers added depth in the draft, with Bosa praising defensive lineman Justin Jones and linebacker Uchenna Nwosu for their ability to get to the quarterback. The progression of second-year defensive end Isaac Rochell could result in Bosa staying fresh by allowing Bradley to rotate more. The 280-pound Bosa could play inside if Rochell is capable of creating pressure off the edge consistently, allowing Bradley to use his most disruptive players together in obvious passing situations.
Bosa, who had 12 1/2 sacks last season as the bookend to Melvin Ingram, could cause more havoc if opponents cannot focus all their attention on stopping the two standout defensive ends.
"Joey can improve," coach Anthony Lynn said. "I don't think he has reached his peak yet at all, and the better we get on that defensive line and create more one-on-one matchups, that's going to help his success as well."
But Bosa will never put a target on his individual production going into his season after recognizing that chasing personal goals often comes at the expense of both the individual and the team.
"If you want to get 15 sacks and you're out there doing your own things to get sacks, more than likely you're going to hurt the team and not get a sack rather than you just doing your job and you falling into one Eli Manning Jersey
," Bosa said. "I've come to realize when I'm really out there trying to make a play like that, I do something wrong and they'll break a run or whatever. But if I I stay within myself and the defense, it usually works out pretty well."
Bosa's zen mentality carries over to his offseason workouts. He stresses developing his overall athleticism rather than addressing any particular football technique. That regiment makes the first week of training camp something of a transition period, with Bosa joking he is focused on "lining up right."
Still, Hayward sees how Bosa approaches the game spilling over to the rest of the team. If Bosa can improve on his momentous initial returns, that bodes well for the Chargers as a whole.
"That's definitely contagious. You see that, you want to work just as hard as he does," Hayward said.
NOTES: Rookie tight end Austin Roberts tore his ACL on Saturday, Lynn said. . The Chargers will practice in full pads for the first time Monday.