Penguins-Capitals series, expected to be a showcase of skill, got nasty in a hurry

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Even a day later, it's a little hard to get your head around all the things that transpired in Game 1 of the Washington Capitals' thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So much happened, so little time to take it in.

It's a good bet that Game 2 will deliver more emotion and drama. But will the outcome be any different?

Here are three things we learned:

Crosby was contained

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby didn't have a particularly inspiring start, as he and linemates Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary were minus-3 in Game 1. They were on the ice for all three of T.J. Oshie's goals, including the winner in overtime.

"You don't like being on for goals, definitely not," Crosby said Friday. "But I've had a lot worse games and didn't end up [minus-3]."

The Penguins controlled play for long stretches in the second and third periods, finishing with 45 shots fired at Washington goaltender Braden Holtby. Crosby finished Game 1 with one shot on goal, while Sheary, the subject of a nasty knee check from Tom Wilson, also had one shot. Hornqvist had four shots on goal.

"I thought we had some good chances and ended up getting scored on a few times," Crosby said. "We've got to move on."

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan has said he's not in favor of chasing line matchups, so it will be interesting to see in Game 2 if he tries to separate the Crosby unit from Washington's big trio of Oshie, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. "It was a match that we anticipated," Sullivan said. "They went a lot against one another in the regular season. Sometimes both coaches are comfortable with the same match, and we're certainly comfortable with that. We've done a fair amount of power against power all year long."

Olli overwhelmed?

In a game that featured 80 shots on goal and a plethora of golden scoring opportunities on both sides of the puck, it's unwise to pinpoint one player -- or even a small group of players -- and suggest they were a factor in a team's defeat. That said, the ongoing struggles of young Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta bear watching as this series proceeds. Maatta struggled in the Penguins' only loss in the first round against the New York Rangers and bounced back nicely in the remaining three games of that series.

But the Washington Capitals represent something else entirely in their ability to pressure opposing defensemen, and it showed in Game 1, as Maatta was directly involved -- in a negative way -- with two of Oshie's goals. Does he have the mental toughness to bounce back again? He'd better, as the defense remains a potentially vulnerable part of the Penguins' game, and Maatta is an important part of that group.

The 21-year-old acknowledged that those kinds of games are not easy to get over. "Obviously, it cost [us] the game, but as you say, you just have to have the short memory," he said, "and can't get stuck to it. I don't think we played that bad. I think we played a good game. Those mistakes cost us. Just got to bounce back tomorrow."

Sullivan repeated the message he delivered after Maatta's forgettable Game 2 in the first round. "As I said a number of times, his body of work this year has been just terrific for our team as far as helping us win," Sullivan said.

Coming out swinging

There was a tendency, heading into the series, to perhaps imagine it as a showcase of pure skill versus skill. But Game 1 revealed a much more physical, sometimes darker side, reminding us that skill will be only part of the story.

Wilson was fined $2,403.67 for his knee to Sheary that left the winger hobbled. Wilson was also involved in an ongoing fracas with Evgeni Malkin. Daniel Winnik's slash to Crosby's midsection went uncalled. Only Chris Kunitz, who took a puck to the head while he was on the bench, is considered day-to-day, according to Sullivan.

In theory, the Capitals will benefit from their ability to get the Penguins' defenders looking over their collective shoulders -- provided they don't veer into penalty trouble. The Caps managed to give Pittsburgh just two power-play opportunities in Game 1 and killed both.

"It's tough," said Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik. "It's two really good teams. I think you'll see swings going back and forth both ways. Obviously, staying out of penalty trouble, which both teams did pretty well last night, will be crucial for us, and I'm sure they'll say the same thing."

The Penguins insisted they would not get caught up in worrying about what should have been called or whether Wilson should have been suspended. Indeed, there seemed to be little surprise at the nasty edge that came with Game 1 and that will in all likelihood carry into Game 2.

"No, that's just the way it goes in the playoffs," Hornqvist said. "We don't like them, they don't like us. So it's going to be a tough, fun series. That's exactly how it's supposed to be in the [postseason]. Everybody is prepared for it and [you have to] always be ready even one, two, three, four seconds after you pass the puck, because they're going to come late. We're going to come late sometimes too."