Penguins Hold Off Capitals, 6-3; Bryan Rust Scores Twice; Evgeny Kuznetsov Strikes In Return

Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 6-3 at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday, their fourth consecutive regulation loss. The loss put the Capitals in a tie with the Penguins and New York Islanders for third in the East Division with all teams having played 13 games this season. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 32 saves in the loss, his 10th straight start.

Capitals’ Lines at Penguins

Photo: @Capitals

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who missed eight games on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol; forward Jakub Vrana, who missed one on COVID-19 protocol; forward T.J. Oshie, who missed one with an upper-body injury; and defenseman Justin Schultz, who missed four with an upper-body injury, all returned to the Capitals’ lineup on Sunday. Forward Daniel Carr, forward Daniel Sprong, center Philippe Maillet, and defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk all came out of the lineup.

First Period

Kuznetsov snapped a one-timer after getting a pass from Schultz at the top of the right circle and the shot went off of Penguins defenseman John Marino’s stick and through the wickets of goaltender Tristan Jarry to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead on the power-play 5:18 in the first.

Forward Bryan Rust tipped home defenseman Mike Matheson’s feed from the left circle at the right post to tie the game for the Penguins at 10:29.

Forward Brandon Tanev pounced on the rebound in front of the net after Vanecek robbed defenseman Cody Ceci with the left pad off of a draw to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead 32 seconds later.

The Capitals scored on one of two power plays and had no giveaways while the Penguins had four in the first.

The Penguins led 10-9 in shots, 11-9 in hits, 7-2 in blocked shots, won 65% of the draws, and failed to score on one power-play opportunity.

Second Period

Vrana poked a rebound on the backhand from the left circle after Jarry robbed forward T.J. Oshie’s wraparound attempt with the left pad to tie it 3:26 into the second.

Rust ripped one through the arm of Vanecek down low after defenseman Kris Letang set him up from the point off of another faceoff win to give the Penguins the lead back at 6:44.

Forward Jake Guentzel buried his own rebound from the slot after captain Sidney Crosby blocked it in front of Vanecek to double the Penguins’ lead at 10:44.

Center Nicklas Backstrom beat Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in front of the net with his stick and knocked a loose puck past Jarry to get the Capitals within one with 2:11 left in the second.

The Capitals led 23-21 in shots, including 14-12 in the second period, went one-for-four on the power-play, and did not have any giveaways while the Penguins had seven through 40 minutes.

The Penguins led 19-18 in hits, 13-6 in blocked shots, 5-3 in takeaways, won 68% of the draws, and scored on one of two power plays in the first two periods.

Third Period

Forward Zach Aston-Reese scored an empty netter from by the Penguins’ bench to make it 5-3 with 1:03 left.

Crosby shot one into the empty net on his knees in the offensive zone to double the Penguins’ lead with 46 seconds remaining.

The Capitals led 30-26 in hits, went one-for-four on the power-play, and had two giveaways while the Penguins had nine.

The Penguins led 38-31 in shots, including 17-6 in the third, 19-18 in hits, 17-8 in blocked shots, 9-4 in takeaways, won 62% of the draws, and scored on one of two power plays.

The Capitals and Penguins play again on Tuesday night. Action from PPG Paints Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally or NBCSN nationally beginning at 7 PM ET.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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