WASHINGTON, D.C. — For one glorious period for fans here Saturday night, the Washington Capitals finally looked like the team we expected to see in the postseason. Wave after wave in the opening period, they attacked. They were relentless, they were drawing penalties, they earned a standing ovation from Capitals fans without even scoring a goal.
That last part became kind of important.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have proven once again that nobody can take a punch quite like them and still find a way to win. They took everything the Capitals had, got up, and delivered their counterattack with precision and an opportunism that has existed since this postseason began.
The Penguins ended up winning Game 2 6-2, taking a 2-0 lead in the series. They won both games on the road and head home with the Capitals wondering what else they have to do to try to beat the Penguins.
This series has quickly become a choose-your-own Capitals narrative as the biggest problem. The Penguins stars struck when their opportunities presented themselves. The Capitals stars did not. Sidney Crosby outplayed Alex Ovechkin, but so did Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. The play Crosby made to go through his legs while gaining entry into the offensive zone before Kessel scored his first of two goals was the highlight-reel play — but it was his blocked shots and backchecking that coach Mike Sullivan will likely highlight.
And the Washington goaltending. It’s threatening to become the thing we remember most if the Capitals don’t find a way back into this series. Starter Braden Holtby never made the big save needed in the big moment before giving way to backup Philipp Grubauer. I have a hard time pinning things too much on Holtby when his teammates couldn’t finish when they were controlling the play, but a goalie needs to take a stand if his team is to make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Holtby hasn’t yet in this series.
It’s an old story being rewritten with new characters, and Capitals fans are now just praying for a dramatic twist.