With less than three minutes remaining in regulation on Saturday night, the Washington Capitals had found the last piece of their three-unanswered goal comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game seemed destined for overtime and standings points would be shared among both teams.
Unfortunately, for the Caps, that comeback was shortlived as Anthony Mantha got caught trying to make a move in the neutral zone and turned the puck over directly to Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin potted the ensuing chance with 1:20 left in the game and the Pens would escape 4-3 victors without any sort of extra hockey.
The play that sealed the Caps’ fate originated in their own zone as Mantha got ready to try and create a rush chance of his own.
Instead of trying to pass the puck to either of his open forward teammates, Mantha attempted to deke around the long reach of Malkin. Malkin easily stripped the puck away, caught the Capitals’ defenders trying to make a line change, and finished low blocker on goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
The 4-3 game-winner came just 1:24 after Dylan Strome had tied the game 3-3.
After the final horn, TJ Oshie refused to let Mantha share the majority of the blame for the loss. He instead put the failure on the team’s inability to play a complete game.
“Yeah, it’s a tough one,” Oshie started. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know Mo feels terrible about it but we trust him with the puck. There just wasn’t a good enough sixty minutes against a good hockey team. So, odds are stacked against us a little bit tonight. We weren’t able to find our game until it’s maybe a little too late.”
Caps head coach Peter Laviolette gave his own take on the performance and the way the game ended.
“I thought we did a great job just staying focused and getting back into that game,” Laviolette said postgame. “It’s frustrating to tie it up and then have it go the other way.”
Mantha has been one of Laviolette’s chosen healthy scratches among the team’s forwards multiple times this season.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the points and goals that (Laviolette is) mad about,” Mantha said in January. “It’s more the rest of (my) game.
“Just my work ethic,” he continued. “Right now that’s what I need to do if I want to get back in the lineup, and I’ll have to show them.”
Mantha recently snapped a 19-game goalless streak with a late goal against the New York Islanders. He has one more goal in five games since then.
The big forward has 27 points (11g, 16a) in 64 games this season.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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