Malkin, Kapanen power Penguins’ OT win over Capitals

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Through much of the season, Pittsburgh hasn’t gotten what they hoped for from Kasperi Kapanen. In making the difference in the Penguins’ 3-2 OT win vs. the Capitals on Tuesday, the team can point to what they expected from Kapanen.

Thanks to a calm, well-placed setup from Teddy Blueger, Kapanen scored the overtime-winner on Tuesday. Kapanen also collected an assist in this one, using his speed and skill to respond to a recent benching.

Penguins stay hot; Capitals maybe fortunate to get a point

Through the first period, the Penguins generated a 12-6 shots on goal advantage. That territorial advantage carried over through the middle frame, as the Penguins doubled the Capitals’ shots on goal through 40 minutes (30-15).

Despite that discrepancy, the two teams ended up tied 2-2 through the first two periods, and then a more even (scoreless) third.

Generally speaking, the Capitals stayed in this game by pouncing on mistakes from the Penguins.

That said, Pittsburgh continues to put wins (or at least points) together lately. By beating the Capitals, the Penguins improved to 10-6-1 on this turbulent season. They’ve won five of their last six games. The Capitals were the only team to beat the Penguins during that span, while Tuesday’s OT loss drops them to a scrappy 9-5-4.

Neither Alex Ovechkin nor Sidney Crosby could get on the board in this one. (Not necessarily for a lack of trying.)

Instead, many eyes were on another star.

“Good and bad of Malkin” on display

Not that long ago, PHT explored what might explain the struggles of Evgeni Malkin. At times this season, we’ve seen far more of the bad than the good — at least by Malkin’s Hall of Fame standards.

There was a mix of good and bad from Malkin as the Penguins faced the Capitals on Tuesday, too.

For one thing, the Capitals somehow left the Penguins star all alone to redirect a power-play goal into Washington’s net. (Even a star like Malkin could use the occasional break like that.)

But, as you can see in the video below, there were moments Malkin might want back. Watch Patrick Sharp and Dominic Moore discuss possible blown assignments/questionable line changes.

(The Athletic’s Jesse Marshall pondered if Malkin’s occasionally lackadaisical line changes might be a “wind” issue on The Hockey PDOcast. Something to watch as the season goes along, whether Malkin gets his legs back or not?)

Overall, the Penguins might feel heartened by signs of progress from Malkin, even with those lower moments vs. the Capitals. With that goal on Tuesday, Malkin’s now on a three-game point streak.

It wasn’t the prettiest game for the Penguins, or Malkin. They almost certainly want to improve, but there’s something to work on. Washington might have a little more to mull over, though.

Also: Penguins forward Jason Zucker left this game with an injury:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.