Karl Alzner congratulates Michal Neuvirth on his third shutout of the year and second straight blanking of the Penguins. (Photo credit: Gregory Shamus)
After besting the Sabres on Sunday, the Capitals took the 178 mile journey down to Pittsburgh to take on a depleted Penguins team. Much was up for the taking Monday night. With a win versus the Pens, the Caps could go finish their pivotal 5-game road trip above .500, move within a point of the Lightning for the Southeast lead and take the season series with Pittsburgh. But despite their injuries, the Penguins remained no slouch. Added with the motivation of playing a Washington team that defeated them on Feb. 6 and in the Winter Classic, the Capitals couldn’t take the Penguins for granted. And they didn’t.
The first period, though scoreless, was certainly energetic. Both teams weren’t afraid to mix it up and play physical as the goalies shut things down. The Caps may have been outshot 18-7 for the frame but they were not without opportunities, including an Alex Ovechkin breakaway chance where the Great Eight was stoned by Marc-Andre Flurey.
The fireworks really began in the second period when Matt Bradley delivered a huge hit on Capitals fan favorite Matt Cooke, receiving a charging penalty in the process. The Pens Jordan Staal proceeded to tackle Bradley to the ice as a scrum formed. Ryan Craig would ask Bradley to answer for the hit when the two dropped the gloves at 11:26 but Craig ended up getting the worst of Bradley’s fists. Shouldn’t Cooke be fighting his own battles? I don’t think I have to answer that one.
While on the power play at 16:38 in the frame, Marcus Johansson fed the puck to a waiting Alex Ovechkin. Ovi then unleashed an unreal, laser beam of a one-timer. BOOM! Caps: 1, Pens: 0
And that would be it. Pittsburgh put 14 shots on Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth in the third period but Neuvy remained as solid as a brick wall. Shutout. World Peace. Something funny here. Caps beat Penguins, 1-0.
- When was the last time the Penguins scored a goal against the Capitals you ask? Early in the second period of the Winter Classic. That’s 157:47 of game time. Michal Neuvirth, whom Dan Bylsma referred to as “shaky” on HBO’s 24/7, has secured the last two shutouts. Disco Dan should probably keep his lips sealed in the future when it comes to masked men.
- Monday’s team win was made possible by brilliant, individual efforts such as Boyd Gordon’s first period tackle, John Carlson’s textbook lift check on Max Talbot’s breakaway and John Erskine’s first period step up on Craig Adams. All around good effort from everyone.
- Did Matt Bradley‘s name trend worldwide on Twitter because hockey fans hate Cooke just that much? Or was it just because of Caps fans love for the paper-thin skinned one? Regardless, Ian is snail-mailing him a one dollar bonus for doing what DJ King is supposed to do: enforce.
- Alex Ovechkin, who has tallies in four out of his last six games, scored the Capitals first game-winning power play goal of the year. Ovi also had eight shots, four blistering hits and two blocked shots. In a post several weeks ago when the Great Eight’s season was looking grim, Neil believed that Ovechkin was suffering from bad luck and that his goal totals would go back to normal. He forecasted that Ovi would total fifteen goals after the All-Star break. He’s now on pace for fourteen. Neil will be predicting Powerball numbers for the rest of the week.
- How tough was tonight’s game? Both teams combined to dole out 64 hits and and it seemed like every whistle lead to a whole lot of head-locks. Nicklas Backstrom even got into the fray by powerfully removing Jordan Staal from a small fracas during the last minute of the game. Mean Lars.
- The Capitals, who were heavily out-chanced by Pittsburgh 22-13, managed only two scoring chances in the third period and were out shot 39 to 24. Would a healthy Penguins team have been able to come back tonight?
- The only thing regarding Alexander Semin that most fans will remember about this game was his first period delay-of-game penalty where he airmailed a clearing attempt into the seventh row. We’re glad no children were harmed in the making of that two minute minor.
The Capitals finished their road trip in style beating two stubborn teams including their arch-rival, picking up six points overall for the journey. It could have been much worse. Washington should build on that fact for the stretch run. It’s going to be tough battle for the Southeast Division crown.
The Caps will have a few days off. I will have a few days off. Yes, the spa does sound lovely. We’ll see you here Friday night.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland and Neil Greenberg.