Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A high-octane offense has the Pittsburgh Penguins traveling the fast track toward what fans in the Steel City hope is a second consecutive Stanley Cup title and the fifth in franchise history. After winning two straight at the Verizon Center, the Penguins aim to send the Washington Capitals down an all-too-familiar path as they bid to push the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners to the brink of elimination with a win in Monday’s Game 3 at PPG Paints Arena.
“We’re not going to shy away from it. We’re going to go there and see what we’re made of,” veteran forward Justin Williams said on the heels of Saturday’s 6-2 setback. The perennially underachieving Capitals face an uphill climb as they head to Pittsburgh, the site of six straight defeats as well as the location of where their season ended a calendar year ago. Penguins forward Jake Guentzel recorded a three-point performance in Saturday’s lopsided victory, with his two goals giving him an NHL-best seven in his first seven playoff games – putting the rookie alongside Maurice “Rocket” Richard (10, 1943-44) and Dino Ciccarelli (seven, 1980-81) as the lone players to accomplish the feat. “It feels good (being up 2-0), but we know that they’re going to be pushing back, so we have to be really good when we get back there,” the 22-year-old Guentzel said.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA
ABOUT THE CAPITALS: Braden Holtby will start Game 3 despite making an early exit after permitting three goals on 14 shots through two periods on Saturday. “Absolutely. Why would you think otherwise?” coach Barry Trotz said Sunday of the starting status of the 27-year-old Holtby, who is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a finalist again this season. “There’s no question he’s our goaltender. We expect him to start (Monday).” Holtby, who has yielded six goals on 35 shots for a 3.67 goals-against average and .829 save percentage in this series, registered a 3-1-0 mark with one shutout, a 2.27 GAA and .922 save percentage in four games after being pulled this season.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS: Phil Kessel led the NHL in points last postseason and finds himself among the leaders once again in 2017. “Phil has shown an ability to elevate his games at key times and he’s been a difference-maker for us in my tenure here,” coach Mike Sullivan said Sunday of the 29-year-old Kessel, who scored two goals and set up another in Game 2 to increase his point total to 11 – which trails only teammate Evgeni Malkin (13). The 30-year-old Malkin joined fellow former Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby in collecting a goal and an assist in Game 2, with the latter recording 11 points (four goals, seven assists) during his six-game streak and surpassing Jaromir Jagr for second on the Penguins’ all-time playoff points list (131).
1. The availability of Pittsburgh RWs Patric Hornqvist (lower body) and RW Tom Kuhnhackl (undisclosed), as well as D Ron Hainsey (undisclosed), was unknown for Game 3, Sullivan said on Sunday.
2. Washington D Kevin Shattenkirk, the prized in-season trade acquisition, has failed to score a goal and owns an NHL-worst minus-7 rating in eight playoff games.
3. The Penguins have outscored foes in the second period by a 15-6 margin during the postseason.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Penguins 3