The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins put on a grand spectacle of hockey tonight in our Nation's capital, battling it out through 65 minutes and seven rounds of a shootout before the Penguins finally emerged victorious, taking home a 3-2 decision.
From the very beginning, the game had the feeling of a classic when inside the first minute, Alex Ovechkin absolutely destroyed countryman Evgeni Malkin behind the Pittsburgh cage. Less than a minute later, in his attempt to get back at Ovie, Malkin took a bad interference penalty, but the Capitals were unable to convert on the ensuing man advantage. Right out of the box, Malkin converted a clearing pass into a beautiful offensive play that saw Sidney Crosby (who the @&%$ else!) tip in a Kris Letang shot for his league-leading 29th goal and a 1-0 Pittsburgh advantage. The Capitals remained on their heels for a little bit before Chris Conner took a penalty and gave the Caps a power play that was quickly turned into a 5-on-3, but Brooks Laich negated that with an interference call 45 seconds. The teams exchanged several chances throughout the rest of the frame, but Marc-Andre Fleury was absolutely sensational and kept the Caps off the board. In the second, Mike Green hooked Malkin on a breakaway barely a minute in, but Michal Neuvirth stood his ground admirably to deny the Russian on the ensuing penalty shot. Thereafter, the Caps buzzed the offensive end continually but were continually robbed by Fleury. The Caps drew another power play about halfway through the frame that turned into a 2 man advantage when Matt Cooke somehow managed to put the puck over the glass over Neuvirth's head from 190 feet away, and Mike Green finally converted to tie the game on a nice glove side snap shot. The Capitals also killed off a penalty late in the frame, and seemed to have all the momentum heading into the third period. But sure enough, Sidney Crosby drove the net only thirteen seconds in and Chris Kunitz buried the loose change to give the Penguins the lead. The Penguins then got two successive power plays and seemed to have the game won until halfway through the second man advantage when Brooks Laich handled a Kris Letang miscue at the red line and dished to Mike Knuble in front, who buried the puck past Fleury for the equalizer, sending Verizon Center into a frenzy. However, neither team was able to dent the opposing goaltender in the final 5:30. Then the real fun began. In overtime, Mike Green rushed up ice and dangled through literally every Pittsburgh player below the circles and seemingly won the game for the Capitals when he slipped a puck into the crease that Fleury swept out of the goal under his glove. The play went to review, and even though Fleury's entire glove was in net, the referees determined that there was not enough evidence to overturn the play (because the puck could not actually be seen). Both teams had excellent chances throughout the rest of the extra period, including an Alex Ovechkin semi-breakaway, but were unable to score, and the game moved to a shootout. Both Ovechkin and Kris Letang scored in the first round of the shootout. Then six consecutive Capitals shooters attempted to score on Fleury glove side, and he repeatedly made spectacular denials with his trapper. Michal Neuvrith was equally stellar on the other end, including a great stop on Sid, but was eventually beaten by Pascal Dupuis to send the Penguins home victorious.
There is no shame in losing this game. The Capitals played hard from the drop of the puck and stuck with, and even dominated, one of the best teams in the league with the best player in the league for periods of time. Regardless of the loss and their continued futility on the power play, still an excellent game by the Capitals all around. The Thrashers and the Hurricanes also lost tonight, so the Caps actually gained some ground on two of their rivals.
Mike Green was an absolute hero tonight. He was all over the place offensively, scored a huge goal, threw 8 hits, blocked 5 shots, and logged over 33 minutes of ice time - absolutely magnificent from number 52. He was denied the goal of the year in overtime, but Greenie showed us tonight that he is still one of the best even with his wonky MCL.
A note to the Capitals' shootout shooters: when a goaltender has repeatedly made amazing stops with his glove hand all night, do not try to beat him there SIX times in a row in the shootout! Mix it up a little! C'mon, man(s)!
Tom Poti left the game in the first period after taking a high stick from John Erskine and did not return. You have to wonder about that eye that was so badly damaged in the playoffs last year.
Caps are back at it on Boxing Day against Carolina and their superstar captain Eric Staal in Raleigh. Puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7 P.M.
Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!