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Penguins

Three things we learned from Penguins-Capitals Game 3

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, May 2, 2018, 8:06 a.m.
The Penguins' Matt Murray eyes the puck during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 1, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Matt Murray eyes the puck during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 1, 2018.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Brian Dumoulin takes a shot during during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 1, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins' Brian Dumoulin takes a shot during during their game against the Capitals inside of PPG Paints Arena on May 1, 2018.

Over the last three postseasons, the Penguins have won nine consecutive series.

In one-third of them, they've been in a position similar to the one they find themselves in now.

Alex Ovechkin scored a tie-breaking goal with 1:07 left to lead the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the Metropolitan Division finals Tuesday night. The Capitals lead the series, 2-1, with game 4 set for Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins have trailed in three of their previous nine series.

They lost the opener to Washington in the second round in 2016 and went on to win the series in six games. They fell behind 1-0 and 3-2 in the 2016 Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay and won in seven games. They fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 against Ottawa in the 2017 Eastern Conference finals and won in seven games.

They've never trailed by two games, however, which is why Game 4 is pretty close to must-win territory.

Here are three things we learned from Game 3.

1. TOP-HEAVY SCORING

The Penguins scored two even-strength goals Tuesday night. Three guesses which line was on the ice for both.

Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist were on the ice for both goals, and in fact, they've combined in some form or fashion on 17 of the team's last 19 even-strength goals over the last seven games.

Perhaps Evgeni Malkin's return will make a difference eventually, but for now, it's an extremely top-heavy attack.

“We have to try to help those guys,” center Derick Brassard said. “They've been producing really well. It's fun to watch from the bench, but yeah, the other lines, we have to try to help out and try to take some pressure off those guys. Eventually, it's going to come. We're going to have to keep working, making plays. Get on the inside a little bit more, try to get in front and score some tips or whatever.”

2. RESPONDING TO WILSON

The Penguins were, in general, pleased with their response after Tom Wilson delivered a violent hit to Zach Aston-Reese, breaking the rookie's jaw and giving him a concussion.

“I loved it,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “I think our team showed character, showed emotion. I think it was great. We answered back with a big body check. I think our answer was great. We took the lead. We played really well. It's just unfortunate. Bad break with a minute (left) and we lose the game.”

That said, Chandler Stephenson scored a goal to forge a 2-2 tie 55 seconds after Wilson's hit.

By any reasonable analysis, the Capitals should have been killing a penalty at that point, not scoring a tying goal.

3. ANOTHER MISSED CALL

As violent as Wilson's hit on Aston-Reese was, another potential penalty he got away with may have been more detrimental to the Penguins' chances of winning the game.

The two-on-one that led to Ovechkin's winning goal started on Olli Maatta's offensive-zone turnover. Maatta, however, would have been in position to keep the rush a two-on-two situation if Wilson hadn't taken out his skates just before Nicklas Backstrom took off up the left wing.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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