PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins have shown an ability to win games a number of different ways during this postseason run. They can win the tight-checking, low-scoring affairs and they can win the scoring sprees.
Monday night saw them win a Game 3 in which they were significantly outshot, but were opportunistic in their attack and weathered a late Washington Capitals storm to win 3-2.
The Capitals threw everything at the Penguins, rolling up a 14-8 advantage in shots through the opening period and a 28-14 difference through two. For the game, they outshot the Penguins by better than 2-to-1 margin, at 49-23.
“I think we outshot them the first couple games,” forward Nick Bonino said. “The team that gets the most shots doesn’t always win. We’ll take them when we can get them. That’s not the blueprint for a win for us."
Bonino and his linemates did what they have done for most of the second half of the season. They worked hard in the offensive zone and found a way to score a goal that went down as the game-winner.
Phil Kessel started the play, sliding into the high slot to pick off an errant clearing attempt from Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt. He made a quick read and saw Bonino standing in front of goaltender Braden Holtby.
Bonino spun and took a quick step to his right, before somehow finding Hagelin in front of the net for a tap in.
Was it a lucky bounce? Maybe, but they don’t come easily and often require some hard work.
“Definitely, you’ve got to work hard for them,” Bonino said. “Phil was in a great spot above the puck like we need to be and picked it off, made a good read and made a good pass.”
The 28-year-old Bonino has been called a cerebral player by his coach and many of his teammates.
“He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve played with in the NHL,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “He’s able to make plays with his skill and his brain. He’s not the fastest skater. But he is always in the right position, both offensively and defensively. He is able to move guys around with his skill and with his mind.”
He showed all of those traits on this goal. He sized up the situation, thought about shooting the puck, before realizing that moving the puck to Hagelin would be the more prudent play.
He took a defender with him as he cut toward the goal line and slid a backdoor pass to Hagelin.
“I was thinking shot right away,” he said. “After I didn’t [shoot] I knew he would beat me to the post. I thought about going to [Hagelin] right away and I thought their 'D' would be right on him. I tried to be a little patient and let [Hagelin] use his speed to get to the net, and he beat his man.”
That wasn’t the only lucky bounce that went the Penguins' way. You could say that was the case all night long, as loose pucks skidded wide of their goal on the few occassions that Capitals shots evaded goaltender Matt Murray. Across the rink, they were the recipients of good bounces.
Their first goal was created when defenseman Trevor Daley fired a shot into traffic that was deflected by Patric Hornqvist. Their second was the result of a Matt Cullen pass deflecting off Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen’s stick, then off Tom Kuhnhackl and behind Holtby.
That's the thing about playoff hockey: It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be clean. You simply have to take what is given to you and find ways to win hockey games.
“Yeah definitely wasn’t our 'A' game,” Bonino said. “One guy brought it, and he was in the net and he saved the game for us. We allowed 50 shots. We haven’t allowed that many shots in a long time and we knew that they would be desperate.
"We were opportunistic tonight. We scored on some of our chances and we’ll limit our mistakes next game. We have to.”