The Washington Capitals clinched their third straight Metropolitan Division title with a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night.
Philipp Grubauer, who’s been tremendous while giving head coach Barry Trotz something to think about as the playoffs approach, made 36 saves, including a couple of beauties in the third period to keep the Penguins at bay.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
T.J. Oshie opened the scoring 6:25 into the game and extended his point streak to five games. Pittsburgh tested Grubauer, firing 26 shot his way in the opening 40 minutes, but he denied them all. Dmitry Orlov would double the Capitals’ lead late in the second period with his 10th of the season.
The Penguins have five wins this season when trailing entering the third period, and coupled with their personnel, they had to be feeling confident that they could find a way to solve Grubauer over the final 20 minutes. That confidence was short-lived as Tom Wilson, via a great deflection, needed just 23 seconds to extend their lead to 3-0.
Playing on Washington’s top line with Alex Ovechkin, Wilson is experiencing a career season with 14 goals and 34 points, 32 of them coming at even strength.
Patric Hornqvist would ruin Grubauer’s shutout attempt with a goal four minutes from time. Then, since these two are hated rivals, things began to boil over. Evgeni Malkin was ready to fight the entire Capitals team.
Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi was also given the heave-ho after chirping the officials.
This is the last meeting between these two teams in the regular season, but the bad blood will not be forgotten should they see one another yet again sometime in the next month.