High Tension in Kuzya’s Debut: Pens beat Caps 3-2

Nick Wass

One legged ant-eater (Photo: Nick Wass)

Caps-Pens! The biggest rivalry in DC sprots! With only 18 standings points between them–

Wait, really? The Pens are that far ahead? Oh golly. Lean times in the District.

Moving on… the Caps need to make up some ground in the eastern conference if they want to make the playoffs, but they’re gonna have to do better than what they did on Monday night. Giving up an early goal and Sidney Shot from the Sidney Spot gave Pittsburgh enough of a boost early on to fend off a Caps surge in the second.

Chris Kunitz scored all of 46 seconds in, taking a pass of Sidney Crosby and beating Mike Green on his way to the not-perimeter. Eric Fehr fought back with a nifty finish set up by Jason Chimera, but the Pens fired back with Crosby’s one timer on the power play.

The Caps tied it up in the second as Nicky Backstrom banked a pass of some poor Penguin in the paint. That was fun, but then Chris Kunitz restored the Penguins lead off a rebound off Halak’s pads a little after the halfway mark.

The Caps could not convert a late-game power play. Cram.

Pens beat Caps 3-2.

First and most importantly: Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench during the Stars-Jackets game. Details are sparse. Peverley got surgery before the season to correct an irregular heartbeat. The game has been postponed.

Our very best wishes go out to Pevs, a beloved fellow from the former Southleast. Many happy returns.

Okay. Back to Caps hockey.

  • File under hot starts. For the Penguins, at least. Sidney Crosby’s stretch pass to Chris Kunitz (and Kunitz’s jaunty waltz around the pylon shaped like Mike Green) kind of sucked the joy out of Kuzya’s debut. A real nice pass from Sid, but….
  • Jason Chimera‘s to Eric Fehr was even better. That was just a terrific sequence by one of the best Penguin killers since the Dharma Corporation Initiative invented polar bears, F16. Stolen puck, quick entry into the offensive zone, puck off his skate and then getting the shot off. Fehr is awesome. He should be in the top six until he’s 42.
  • I’ve come with a new rule. Tell me what you think of it: Mike Green is not allowed to skate behind his own net. That’s where all the bad things happen. Like hits. He should play only away from the boards. And maybe other players. What are your thoughts? I’m just spitballin’ here.
  • Brooks Laich is a gametime decision every other night, but when he suits up, he’s ready to play. I don’t know what’s going on with his health, but I love his effort lately– mostly on the power play, where he’s a tenacious little wombat playing the low man. He didn’t get credit for the Backstrom goal, but he was instrumental nonetheless. Less awesome during 5-on-5, but aren’t we all?
  • I know people are gonna say Jaroslav Halak was giving up big rebounds, particularly on Kunitz’s second goal. He was, but also consider this: what the blood clot are Connor Carrick and Jack Hillen doing playing against the best playmaker in the world, Sidney Crosby? Their “coverage” on that Pittsburgh attack was in name only.
  • Alex Ovechkin‘s struggles during even strength seems to be getting worse. Maybe the matchups are more intense, but he’s definitely not seeing the offensive-zone time or shooting support he needs. When the Caps dominated the middle period, it wasn’t so much when Ovi was on the ice.
  • When we learned Evgeny Kuznetsov would share the fourth line with mainstay Tom Wilson, I was like, “Sweet! Maybe more ice and better linemates for the big guy.” Nope. Kuznetsov got extra shifts with the top line and power play, whereas Wilson bumped his head on the 8-minute TOI ceiling.
  • The Caps had a terrific berserker rage late in the third, creating enough chaos to catch the Pens with too many men. Terrific drama and tension, but no outcome.
Joe B suit of the night

Joe B suit of the night

Speaking of Kuznetsov: nice start. I’m not gonna dig through the chicken entrails of his 12 minutes or so, but I liked what I saw. That means good vibes for the future, but the Caps don’t need a wonderful future. They need success like yesterday.

Splitting this home-and-home B2B with the Pens would be a good way to make up ground. Also good would be hoping for some other team above them in the standings to spontaneously explode.

Hug your loved ones, even the dogs.

  • Chris Cerullo

    jkamlmcsklmfnowejfosmdciomfoiajsoicinefiudwciij3

    Yep.

  • Jack Conness

    Tough loss. Can’t be losing games anymore. Need moar points. Oates is now 0-6 vs. Pittsburgh. That’s real bad. Kuzya looked timid and hesitant, but skated well. Nothing too surprising. Mike Green can’t get burned like he did against Kunitz. Ever.

    Thoughts to Rich Peverely. Hope all is well with him.

  • William

    Fun game to watch, tough loss. Hopefully they get kuznetsov to start playing top 6 minutes.

    P.S. Mike Green Sucks

  • Luis Riveros

    Mike Green you are awful…

  • Dave

    I repeat:

    The low Caps goalie save percentage when Mike Green is on the ice is because Mike Green makes horrible gaffes in his own end.

    #notallshotattemptsarecreatedequal.

    Kuzya looked good though.

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    Oates 0-6-0 vs Penguins. OMG…

  • Matt

    WTF happened in the last minute? Did they forget the fact the Penguins were ahead? No points for passing…shoot the puck!

  • Chris Cerullo

    Agreed. Green was horrid tonight. We needed more from Ovie tonight and IMO Kuzya uptop could help him out. Why Penner’s huge body isn’t on the ice for a 6 on 4 to screen is beyond me. It is what it is though and we need points 2moro.

  • riggorules

    Sick of defending Green. He’s had way more stinkers than $6.5M games, don’t think it’s really close this year.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Halak didn’t help but yes, Green was rather awful.

  • Guest
  • Jack Conness

    I thought Halak played just fine. First goal is Green’s fault, 2nd goal was just a beauty from Crosby, and the 3rd goal was shotty defense from Backstrom IMO. He has to be on Kunitz.

  • James Desautels

    Carrick needs to be in Hershey. Its cliche now on this blog to say so, but how the hell does Oates keep playing him over other guys not named Erskine? He gets manhandled low behind the goal, he throws passes to no one in the zone, and every time I see him on PK I feel like throwing bricks at my tv. Oates is killing me with some of the personnel decisions. WTF does Oates see? I understand he may have high potential but he is clearly not ready for NHL minutes yet and the ice is severely tilted when he is on the ice getting stuck in his own end.

  • Jimmie

    I swear, for a second or two after the first Penguins goal, I thought John Erskine was on the ice

  • Chris Cerullo

    We need one or two game savers a night from him though. Which is what Huet gave us in 2008. I agree with the problems on defense but I guess I’m literally just so used it by now.

  • Luis Riveros

    Mike Green…

  • James Desautels

    If i do end up bricking my expensive TV i am writing letters to KCI everyday until I am paid for the destruction.

  • Rob W.

    i couldnt help but to laugh after the first goal, thats where im at mentally with this team

  • Luis Riveros

    Calle should tie a parachute to him at practice and make him do laps around the rink…maybe he’ll get faster.

  • Jonathan Kenny

    Couldn’t care less about Kuzy’s start cuz we just lost to the Pens for the 7th straight time. It appears we even ‘outplayed’ them and still lost. UUGH!!

    http://youtu.be/jq9JaTp7pFo

  • Hockey mom

    If we had played more games like this, we would be having much different conversations…D still needs help, though…

  • #3

    Can someone explain to me what’s happened to him? The concussion? Are those career-enders?

  • Rob W.

    Honestly the Peverley situation was more concerning then this loss, just scary stuff. This game proves why we will barely miss making the playoffs, we can play with the good teams but we just come up a little bit short

  • riggorules

    CalleJo? Don’t know, but if he’s going to suck id at least like him to look like he gives a darn.

  • Rob W.

    it really is crazy how he looks like he just doesnt give a damn when he plays

  • Jonathan Kenny

    And who the hell is Jeff Zatkoff !!??

  • #3

    He seems really dazed and out of it. Weird to watch.

  • disolitude

    You really can’t blame a single thing for todays loss but here is a list of things that went wrong today:
    1. Halak is still getting used to things and is overplaying every shot that comes his way
    2. Caps defense isn’t up to snuff. If it isn’t Erskine, someone else steps up…or down in this case.
    3. Don’t take stupid penalties. Backy and Ovi penalties in the first are completely unnecessary and when Crosby is involved they will call that shit every time.
    4. Ovi isn’t an offensive threat unless puck is served to him on a platter for his patented shot. He played decent defense and hit a lot though for what it’s worth…
    Pens didn’t play that well at all. In fact Caps were overall better tonight. Maybe tomorrow then can play worse and win?
    Otherwise Kuznetsov dipped his foot in the water tonight. Maybe he can go for a swim tomorrow.

  • Chris Cerullo

    He had a “cardiac event” was defibrillated and immediately says he knows where he is and wants to get back on the ice. What a fucking hockey player, excuse my french, but my lord.

  • Heidi

    I believe you mean NOT on the Green bullet. If he’s only now allowed to skate behind his own net , I don’t want to imagine how much worse things will be.

  • JH

    I have always felt the Caps would pull things together in time to make the playoffs. But I am beginning to lose confidence in that as a likely outcome.

    Bright spots:

    Kuzya had a nice debut. The fact that Oates gave him first-line minutes and PP minutes bodes well.

    Maybe it’s just me, but Orlov seems to get better and better.

    Laich is playing well and crashing the net.

  • Rob W.

    Haha, typical hockey player response. some things are more important then wins and losses

  • Joben

    Might be too early to talk about the summer but GMGM should consider shopping Green around. He’s got one year left before he’s an UFA and we now have an arguably better PP QB in Carlson and maybe Orlov. Some guys who are better at a lower cost and have their contracts also ending soon that would be suitable replacements: Zbynek Michalek, Robyn Regher, Andrei Markov, Johnny Oduya, Johnny Boychuk, and Marc Staal.

  • yv

    Same story I’m repeating after every game, without first line winning battles in ES Caps don’t have chances. Their losing streak has started, I think, in Caps game vs Vancouver in November? where they played vs Sedins line and keep going until now.
    I’m wondering whether Carrick holds AO as a hostage, b/c I don’t understand why he is not in Hershey yet. MG52 seems playing like something wrong with his head, such degradation of his game, especially in D. And Halak, his jittery plays at the beginning of the games becoming annoying. He have to paint his helmet, otherwise it’s so contrasting with the team colors and looks like a white flag.
    Despite, really positive thing like totally outshooting Pens in the second, Caps lost and approaching the point of missing playoffs.

  • Chris Cerullo

    GMGM should consider looking for a new job

  • Joben

    That too. Seriously, I can’t understand what goes through his mind when we’ve been lacking in strong defense for years but he’s done nothing to alleviate that situation.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Sky Kerstein ‏@SkyKerstein 3m
    #Caps Oates on Green lately “I thought Greenie’s played pretty good lately

    What.

  • Jared

    Chimmy – Fehr – Ward for First line!

  • MuzzMuzzington

    “Barely”

  • MuzzMuzzington

    With Laich playing well and Green looking slow, timid, and afraid of contact. I suppose we will attempt and fail to trade him, then buy him out.

    Ciest la vie. Love ya Greener, but you aren’t worth it anymore. Orlov has taken over the Defensive liability, offensively talented defenseman position. All that great progress and development you seemed to have shown last season, you regressed back to the hot mess that is injury scared Green.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Oates also thinks we are keeping shots to the outside… The only shots we are keeping to the outside are our own.

  • Seth Malaguerra

    I’ve boiled it down to four fundamentals that the Caps have struggled with this year:
    1. Clear defensive zone.
    2. Gain offensive zone.
    3. Outscore the opponent.
    4. Gain standings points.

  • Guest

    Same with Ovi at even strength.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    He is proving his point here. We will only get 10 more points this season with “better goaltending” that he has provided in the form of Halak.

  • Guest

    The first line focuses on Ovi too much. I’d like to see Mojo/Laich and Backy to be more selfish. It’s too easy to shut down. Same with the breakouts, they’re a turnover machine in the neutral zone. They’re by far our worst line at ES.

  • Seth Malaguerra

    Re: Caps-Pens – it’s only a rivalry if it’s a win-some, lose-some relationship. Penguins have clubbed the Caps like some baby seals the past two years.

  • Christopher R

    GMGM should have considered shopping Green around 4 years ago while he still had value.

  • alchemistmuffin

    All I can say is this about this game:

    “To be continued…..”

    (And cue credits)

  • Bugs Fire

    I think Ovie looked most dangerous this season when playing with Grabovski and Fehr. I have nothing against the Swedes, but you are right that their focus on Ovie makes the line way too predictable.

  • Michael Reschly

    It’s the Dharma Initiative, not Corporation.

  • Rob W.

    i just dont an to be a complete negative nancy, i think they have enough fight in them to make it close

  • Alex Hughes

    Look the Caps played a decent game against one of the best teams in the league. They actually(shock of all shocks) out-shot the Pens by a wide margin and if the first minute debacle doesn’t happen who knows what the outcome would have been. A lot of positives to take from this game and now they need to implement that into tomorrow.

  • Alex Hughes

    They should just list Brooksy as a game time decision every game because every time he is one he has a very good game.

  • Alex Hughes

    Put Kuzya on the 1st line tomorrow for the whole game, we need more even strength production from Ovi and I think Kuzya would do nothing but benefit Ovi’s even strength play.

  • H70

    I heard Craig & Joe B say, “Carrick’s pass to no one in particular…” while watching the Pens sail down the ice with it…

  • Alex Hughes

    Can we get Nate Schmidt back? I really miss his solid D play compared to Connor Carrick, still have no idea what Oates sees in him, he just needs to develop in the AHL more. At least John Erskine isn’t playing….

  • Diller M

    Was it just me or did it not feel like the comeback was gonna work tonight? Despite all of the puck possession and the PP I just didn’t think it was gonna happen. It’s weird how sometimes you can feel it and sometimes you can’t.

  • Simonezero

    Peter, were you drinking tonight? If you were it’s ok. I think we all were.

    The third line impressed me on Saturday, and again tonight. Those boys hustle, and then surprise you with some sweet moves.

    Let me say the only time I’m not cringing is when I see that #74 and #27 are out there, maybe I have trust issues..

  • Barrett

    That’s two goals on Backstrom. His slashing penalty on Crosby is what setup that Ovechkin-esque blast from Crosby.

  • Barrett

    Is it OK for Backstrom to get burned by Kunitz?

  • Roy Schue

    I thought the third goal he gave up a fat rebound. If he was on his game that would have been directed more towards the corner

  • Roy Schue

    Four years ago he was electric and everyone would have bitched if he traded green

  • Barrett

    Chimera, Ward, Fehr, Laich and Orlov were the only Capitals players that appeared to show up. The power play has reverted back to the end of the Boudreau era where they all stand still and Backstrom stick handles. No puck or player movement is going to get it done. Not impressed by anything Halak has done since the 2010 playoffs. Oates continues to be out-coached on a nightly basis. I’m amazed at how well the Penguins have done this year when Joe B listed ALL the players their team is missing.

  • Barrett

    Was he awful when he made the play to start the rush leading to Fehr’s goal? It’d be different if only he was getting burned, but literally every defenseman on this team gets abused. I’m thinking it’s a coaching issue/scheme and not player personnel.

  • Roy Schue

    Oh is that all, easy fix…lol

  • Christopher R

    True. Its about having a playoff team every year that makes money and keeps fans happy. Not worth making a business/ organizational decision to sacrifice the moment to build a team thats over the top and can win the cup.?

    Green could have had a nice return back then. Now I doubt he’d fetch anything close to that. Also if he traded Green he could have easily brought in someone for less money and more impact with the cap space (although debatable with Mcphee in charge). Atleast to me, it became clear after a few years that you either needed to trade Green or Semin while they still had value. You where not going to win with two mentally fragile players getting that much ice time. Personally I would have traded Green, signed a solid Dmen, and found Semin a legit second line center.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I do not drink on schoolnights.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett
  • Owen Johnson

    “And Halak, his jittery plays at the beginning of the games becoming annoying.”

    After 2 games?

  • Owen Johnson

    Caps played pretty well tonight against a very good team. Unfortunately though, we need moar standings points and less moral victories.

  • jj

    Mike Wise is absolutely right. This team as constructed has no viable chance to win a Stanley cup.

  • yv

    Yes, how many is needed? He has said he is here to help, but by some reasons he so nervous at the beginning of the games and needs 20-30 min to settle. A lot of other GTs have changed teams w/o problems, including recalls like Grubi.

  • Roy Schue

    That article is less than 3 yrs old. The original comment was 4 years ago. That puts it around the trade deadline of 2010, right in the middle of the caps president trophy run. Green, Ovechkin and the caps were firing on all cylinders. Nobody saw the playoffs ending so early. I just feel it wouldn’t have been very popular at that point. A year later around the time of the article you mentioned…yes.

  • Roy Schue

    Not disagreeing they should have traded him, just not in the middle of the 2009-10 season. We appeared to be in for a long playoff run. Nobody foresaw the Canadians “Halak” being the brick wall they were. Definitely should have traded semin in his walk year instead of letting him go to free agency for nothing.

  • Eric Schulz

    That’s GMGM, not Oates (necessarily)…

  • Roy Schue

    Now after the early playoff exit, in the summer of 2010. Yes that would have been ideal.

  • Christopher R

    So the year before we got our prized second line “baby-sitter” in Arnott? In my eyes 4 years ago I would have still considered trading Green at the right price, and if not then sometime after the playoffs. Yes back then the Caps were firing at all cylinders, but they also had no defense. Green had a nack of joining the rush and finding soft ice for a wrist shot, il give him that. But without defense you will not win a cup, especially with that many young and dumb players prone to mental lapses. I just believe that in the playoffs you need a well balanced team for nights you get “Halak’d” or “Lundquist’d” and struggle to score. I also recall players such as the ones you listed above being free agents around that time and signing reasonable contracts elsewhere.

  • Jason

    If I had to watch Green & Co. play defense in front of me, I’d be nervous too.

  • Owen Johnson

    Perfectly put. We’ve seen enough of Holtby, Neuvy, and Grubi getting hung out to dry. Now its Halak’s turn.
    #itsnotthegoaltending

  • Jonah

    I remember doing that in my peewee years… So it might help him!

  • Jonah

    How about some Steve-O?
    He hasn’t been up since November…? Maybe and I’d like to see someone besides willy baby smashing peoples faces with his fists

  • Rhino40

    Some nobody scrub that Bylsma brought in just to troll us, as in “we are so confident in our ablility to Dictate and Dominate that we don’t even need to use our #1 ‘keep” to win.

    The worst part of this game was that the scoreboard and the faceoff dot were absolutely the only areas wher the Pens “dominated”: IMO, the Caps outhot, outhit, outworked and even out-possessed the Pens (despite losing most of the faceoff battles). In short, the Caps deserved to win this game.

    It is infuriating that, whenever we fight these bastards to a standstill, they start throwing random shit around, because they know the Hockey Gods love them. So much so that well nigh every Twilight Zone, bizarro, freaky, unreal, defying-everything-we-know-about-the-laws-of-physics bounce of the puck somehow always seems to end up on a Penguin stick and/or in the Caps’ net (cf Kunitz’s GWG).

    I hate feeling this kind of despair: Play well and lose, play poorly and lose badly.

    Please guys, get some revenge tonight…please?