Photo credit: Joe Sargent
Everyone writing about the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins talks about how the rivalry isn’t what it used to be. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to harp on the diminished luminosity of Alex Ovechkin’s star or the Penguins’ 9-game streak going into Tuesday. Not gonna do it. I’m not going to ruminate on the struggles in Washington while Pittsburgh sits atop the Eastern Conference. You won’t hear about that from me. That’s just not how I roll.
Instead, I’ll stick to the game– a high-tension affair in Western PA that saw neither team establish momentum for long. Both goalies played terrifically, and then one bad goof at the end of a long power play cost the Caps the game.
Penguins beat Caps 2-1.
- Alex Ovechkin cracked the scoreboard about halfway into the game, cleaning up a tasty Troy Brouwer rebound with a one-timer. Before that, the game was a grandfather clock: tightly wound, but somehow also hypnotically boring.
- Brooks Laich and his baby blues made their long-awaited return to active service– and he did a lot more than I thought he would. It was great to hear tweeple of various gender identities and sexual preferences voice their satisfaction at the comeback.
- Dmitry Orlov was used somewhat less. In his first big-league game this season, Orlov played just 12 minutes. He was one of the few Caps players struggling on the night (minus-9 Fenwick), but he’ll get his step back. I really wanna see him taking more shots though– like fellow blueliner Steve Oleksy, who never shrinks from the chance to swing at the puck (2 shots, 6 attempts).
- This game was super tight. Neither team was able to sustain a shot-attempt lead, and both goalies played excellently. Through 40 minutes, the Capitals eked out a tiny lead in possession thanks to a few spirited shifts by guys like Eric Fehr, Mike Ribeiro, and Alex Ovechkin.
- The Penguins’ power play is punishingly productive. Pushing nine pucks at the net in a pair of PPs nearly put Pittsburgh in good position to pull two points, but a pluperfect Washington penalty kill negated one power play, and Paul Martin‘s nearly perdu point blast penetrated the net on the other.
- Alex Ovechkin got the best of awful human Matt Cooke. Ovechkin gave Cooke a clean hit, but the irascible scumbag retaliated, hitting Ovi in the numbers and earning another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The best part was Ovechkin’s attitude: not appealing to the refs for a penalty, just playing to the whistle.
- The worst part was the garbage four-minute power play, which was startlingly unproductive and ended in time for Cooke to set up Matt Niskanen for the go-ahead goal.
- The Caps had 4 shots on 5 power play opportunities. Granted, one of those shots was a goal, but still: that stat is the obvious perpetrator of this loss.
(I try not to foreground it too much, but look at that Joe B pic over there. Best ever? Top 5 at least, right?)
Here’s the deal: the Caps were the better team at five-on-five. In the long term, that goes a long way towards a winning record, but without competence on special teams the Caps let this one get away from them. On the brightside, Captain Alex Ovechkin was terrific — drawing penalties, attempting 14 shots, and scoring his team’s only goal.
But squandering that four-minute man advantage was the death knell for this game (and season?). And now the Caps have a tough road stretch ahead of them– first a pair in the Southeast of the North, Winnipeg, then capping it off in New York.
I’m not calling them must-wins, because I’m not sure it matters at this point. And if nothing our team does matters, then the only thing that matters is what our team does. (Boom. Angel reference.)