A team with a cohesive, well-oiled power play can make its opponents look rather foolish. And considering Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin don't need much of an advantage or open ice to embarrass a would-be defender, putting them both on the same power play unit can produce some aesthetically pleasing sequences.
Exhibit A: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in an early Metropolitan Division showdown with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.
Mike Darnay, Pensburgh: I remember this being the first Pens-Caps game of the season, so naturally it was on NBCSN's Rivalry Night.
The Peerless, Japers' Rink: This is what happens to a team that is at best inconsistent and at worst bad at penalty killing. The Caps were just 7-for-10 in penalty killing in their previous two games (3-for-5 against Detroit, 4-for-5 against St. Louis). The Caps were 2-for-3 in this game against Pittsburgh. The streak of allowing power play goals continued for another three games following this one.
Natasha, Pensburgh: I was sitting in the corner by that net, a few rows from the ice, so I had a perfect view of that goal.
Jon, Japers' Rink: The Crosby goal came in arguably the single-most one-sided game of the season (insofar as the portion of the game that was actually competitive is concerned), as the Pens dominated from the opening draw, notching the game's first 13 Corsi events and two goals.
Jim Rixner, Pensburgh: It was one of those things that happened so quickly in real life, everyone in attendance was reduced to just saying ‘Wow, how did that go in?'
The 8th-best goal of 2013-14
This was a set play, drawn up by former Pens coach Dan Bylsma or one of his assistants, and executed to perfection.
How it unfolded
Malkin made his way back up the wall, while Crosby worked down into the box. James Neal, not pictured, skated down from the blue line, and became an integral piece to the play.
Natasha, Pensburgh: The thing I remember the most was Sid sliding into the box and starting to slowly glide backwards setting up for the snipe all along.
As Crosby made his way through the Capitals' PK rectangle, Neal also came down, giving Malkin a target to continue the cycle.
One of the craziest things about this sequence was Paul Martin, occupying the other point spot, had nothing to do with this play whatsoever. He wasn't even a decoy, or integral to this goal at all. The Penguins went at this 4-on-4. And although Crosby was beginning to find some open ice he's completely walled off by the Capitals kill, which was in good position.
Malkin made the first pass and got things rolling. Chris Kunitz, who was creating some traffic atop the crease, planted himself square in the middle of all four Capitals.
By sending the puck directly into traffic, Malkin forced the Washington skaters to collapse toward Kunitz. Jason Ward and Jason Chimera were now both behind the play, while Karl Alzner was circling back to rotate toward Neal below the goal line.
Neal had the puck below the goal line, as Alzner was reaching to make a play, and John Carlson was trying to eliminate the passing lane, or really any space to make a player toward the front. But look at Crosby: There's no one in the same area code as 87, while it's still hard to imagine the puck getting to him.
Seriously, the only thing that could fit between Carlson's right skate and Holtby's goal stick was a hockey puck. The margin for error on a cross-ice pass was non-existent. It's almost unfathomable that any puck sent from Neal's stick wouldn't deflect off of something and into some other direction.
If what Neal did with the puck was a little lucky, what Crosby did next was pure skill. For a left-handed shot to one-time a puck on a pass going right-to-left requires an insane amount of discipline, strength, and coordination. Heck, Holtby did a pretty darn good job going from post-to-post, not leaving a hole lot of space for Crosby to shoot at. But because Crosby was able to get the shot off so quickly, there's still some space in the top corner, although the degree of difficulty was incredibly high.
Natasha, Pensburgh: Then he went down on one knee and fired it (he was shooting toward where I was sitting), and I couldn't see the puck in that instant but I knew it was in the net because it had no place else to be.
Jim Rixner, Pensburgh: My end-zone seats where at the other end of the ice and I had a perfect angle of the setup of the play, though I was so far away, I couldn't tell that the shot went in until the reaction of the players.
Jon, Japers' Rink: This specific tally was nice and all, but maybe we should deduct points since it came against perhaps the worst penalty kill of the BtN Era. Kidding. Great passing; great shot. (But seriously, that penalty kill ... woof.)
GoPens, Pensburgh: The other big takeaway is just how crisp the puck movement was, reducing NHL penalty killers to mere pylons, which really goes to show the skill of the Pens on this play, and ties a nice bow on just how dreadful the Capitals season was.
Jim, Pensburgh: In the scheme of the game it was a huge goal to make it 3-0 just before the end of the 2nd period, effectively putting the game out of reach. In the scope of the moment it felt even bigger than that -- it was another instance of Crosby shining in his biggest individual rival's backyard with nothing that anyone could do to stop him. With, of course, some pretty help by his teammates who completed three passes between the four of them in about a second and a half.
Natasha, Pensburgh: This game is a happy memory, because it was as complete a game as we played all of last season. Then the injuries came and it was all downhill from there. In that one moment, though, everything came together and I was completely happy about the Pens.
The Peerless, Japers' Rink: Over the streak of six games in which they allowed at least one power play goal, the Caps were 16-for-25 (64.0 percent). Pretty goal? Absolutely. As Crosby said after that game, "It's tough to get those. Teams know where everybody is on the ice. To get that many quick passes in -- you enjoy those, because you don't see those too often. It's right up there." But they were playing a bad penalty killing team playing poorly.
Mike Darnay, Pensburgh: I was unsure of how the Penguins would look and it ended up being a laugher. Crosby's goal jammed me up in a good way and left me laughing for the rest of the night. Now, I watch the highlight of that goal and think about Crosby scoring goals like this against Brooks Orpik and the Washington Capitals for the next FIVE years.