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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!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold (and Wet)

The view from my seat
The Washington Capitals took care of business tonight, knocking off the hometown Penguins 3-1 in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic.  The Caps found a way to battle back after falling behind early in the second period, and pulled out a huge win in a hostile environment.  Semyon Varlamov was excellent in nets for the Caps, stopping 32 of 33 Penguins shots.

The game started off rather slowly as both teams adapted to the rather miserable ice conditions.  You could see the copious amounts of water on the ice even from my seat up high, and it was clearly affecting play for both teams.  But as both teams got used to it, the play began to pick up and both sides were able to generate good offensive pressure for sustained periods.  Both teams were awarded early power plays, but neither could dent the opposing goaltenders, M-A Fleury and Semyon Varlamov.  Both goalies made several exceptional saves in the first, especially Varlamov, and the teams headed to the dressing rooms tied at 0.  In the second, the Penguins came out very hard, but it was the Capitals who got chances, including an Ovechkin breakaway that was stymied by Fleury.  The Penguins broke through about 2 minutes in when Evgeni Malkin caught Ovechkin late in a shift (again) and broke down the wing, burying a breakaway goal past Varlamov to take a 1-0 lead.  But the Caps were awarded a power play soon thereafter and took quick advantage when Mike Knuble buried a loose puck in front to equalize.  Both teams carried play for extended periods during the second frame, but the Caps broke through again about 14 minutes in when Marcus Johansson collected a Fleury giveaway behind the net and dished in front of Fehr, who made no mistake with the empty net to put the Caps ahead with the eventual game winning tally.  The second period concluded with the Capitals ahead 2-1.  In the third, the Penguins once again came out hard and had the Caps on their heels, but Varly stood tall for the visiting side.  Then rain began to fall, and the previously mediocre ice went sour very quickly.  The Penguins were awarded a power play in the rain, but the Caps killed it off and sent Eric Fehr in on a breakaway just after the penalty ended.  Fehr shot high glove on Fleury, and beat the Quebecois for a crucial insurance goal at the 11:59 mark.  Alex Ovechkin had a goal waved off about three minutes later due to incidental goaltender contact on the play, but it ended up being a moot point, as Varly kept the Penguins off the board for the remaining eight minutes and brought home the victory.

Observations:

What an unbelievable game.  Obviously, it was made a thousand times better by a Caps win, but that was the most magnificent thing that I have ever seen.  The atmosphere was simply electric and the game lived up to all of it's hype and more.  Both teams competed hard and battled the elements with class.  Still, it was, first a foremost, a hockey game, and the Caps brought home a crucial two points.

Semyon Varlamov won his team the game for the second contest in a row.  Varly was quick in his movement all night and had some excellent saves early that really set the tone for the game.  An excellent effort from the young Russian and, to me, an indicator of who the number one is in DC.

Not to rain (pun intended) on the parade a bit, but Alex Ovechkin was noticeably limping as he walked out to the ice after both the first and second intermissions.  He seemed a bit ginger during the game, too, it looked like his knee was bothering him.  Hopefully it's nothing too serious, but it was definitely there.

Caps are back at it on Tuesday against Tampa Bay and Steven Stamkos at the Verizon Center.  That game is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Good night from soggy Pittsburgh.  Go Caps!

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