#CapsFilmRoom: A Tale of Two Passes

Alex Ovechkin

Photo: Justin K. Aller

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. Okay, maybe that was forced, but it still holds true. Game Three began with a grope, but ended with a 3-2 loss on enemy ice. The Caps absolutely outplayed the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but still walked away down 2-1 in the series.

Even so, there are positives to pull from the game. It was the first match of the series that the Caps unquestionably controlled the play against the Penguins. The Capitals probably never expected to come into Pittsburgh and take both games, so while it makes Game Four on Wednesday all the more important, it is not a backbreaker either.

The Caps are rightfully feeling pretty good about their current play going into Game Four. This was a game of bounces. The Pens got them. The Caps didn’t.

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Tuesday afternoon, the NHL announced a one-game suspension for Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. The linchpin of Pittsburgh’s blueline delivered a head shot to Capitals forward Marcus Johansson in Washington’s offensive zone during the first period. Letang was given a two-minute minor penalty for interference.

Johansson left the game and returned at the start of the second period, playing over 18 minutes. He passed concussion tests, but complained of neck pain. Tuesday morning, Johansson was held out of practice due what the Capitals termed an upper-body injury.

The Department of Player Safety explains their decision below.

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Sunday night, Caps owner Ted Leonsis was in the U Street Corridor and posted a landscape of the 9:30 Club. The concert hall’s iconic broadcast antenna (from its days as WUST-AM 1120) was lit up in red and white colors. “Red rocking around DC,” Leonsis captioned the photo.

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In the first period of Game Three, Marcus Johansson got elbowed in the head by Kris Letang. The hit, which was not unlike Brook Orpik’s in Game Two, forced a dazed Johansson to retreat to the locker room. Johansson returned for the start of the second period and ended up skating nearly 20 minutes in the game. With suspensions and fines often based on whether or not the player is injured, the league’s Department of Player Safety will undoubtedly soften the blow to Letang because Johansson came back. The Capitals forward said he passed concussion testing but had “a little whiplash.”

“I didn’t see him coming, he came from the blind side,” Johansson said. “I just looked at it, he obviously leaves his feet, and hits me in the head. It’s the kind of play you want out of the league. Doesn’t look good.”

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Monday morning, Barry Trotz put on a figurative tinfoil hat and said one of the most wacky things he’s ever said as Caps coach. Frustrated by the length of Brooks Orpik’s three-game suspension, Trotz suggested the NHL favors the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised based on who we’re playing and all that,” Trotz said.

Later when asked to clarify, Trotz replied, “Take it for whatever you want.”

I, a rational human being, do not believe the NHL favors one team over another. But the problem is the optics. And the main provider of said optics is NBC, the NHL’s American TV partner.

Over the years, NBC’s analysis during intermission can basically be summed up like this: yell first, think later. Whether it’s Jeremy Roenick calling Alex Ovechkin a bad defensive player due to plus-minus or Keith Jones pushing tired narratives, NBC’s hockey analysis can seem more about settling scores than communicating constructive information. (It’s basically the opposite of CSN Mid-Atlantic’s coverage of Caps games.)

Mike Milbury, whose personality wavers from patient to cranky night to night, is the kingpin. During the first intermission of Game Two, Grumpy Milbury launched into an angry screed about Brooks Orpik’s headshot on Olli Maatta. The Orpik hit was bad, don’t get me wrong, but Milbury’s analysis still somehow managed to be over-the-top.

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Photo: Doug Pensinger

The Washington Capitals played their best game of the postseason in Game Three of the Second Round, firing 49 shots at Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray. After allowing three unlucky goals, two off deflections and one off a tip-in in the crease, the Capitals pummeled Pittsburgh with 21 shots on goal in the third period, scoring twice and nearly converting on a myriad of scoring chances in the final minutes. After the Capitals mustered just 10 shots through the first 40 minutes of Game Two, Nicklas Backstrom was angry with how his team played. But speaking after Monday’s loss, which put the Capitals down 2-1 in the series, he was far more confident in his team.

“We had more shots tonight than we had last game, so that’s a good thing,” Backstrom said after Game Three. “It’s a seven game series and I think it’s so important that you take something positive even if you lose. I thought we played right.”

The message was the same throughout the Capitals locker room.

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Penguins beat Caps 3-2: Nothing Feels Good

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Urine (Photo: Tom Guilitti

Albert Camus portrayed existence as the mythical Sisyphus carrying a stone up a hill only to watch it fall once he reached the top. Sisyphus trudges down and starts over. He drags up the hill again, and again it drops. This story, Camus tells us, is just like life: meaningless, tedious, thoroughly absurd.

Just like Capitals playoff hockey!

Washington sure tried hard. They sorta dominated play in Game Three, but the universe is unconcerned with effort. The Caps lost. The rock rolled down the hill.

Patric Hornqvist got one first, scoring after a failed Caps clear. One minute later it was Tom Kuhnhackle’s turn, getting some lucky bounces to beat Braden Holtby.

The Caps were furious in the second period, but it was Carl Hagelin who struck, making it 3-0 after Nate Schmidt’s misplay in his own end.

In the third, Alex Ovechkin ripped one to the top corner to crack Matt Murray’s shutout. With a minute left, Justin Williams found an open net and scored. The Caps pushed hard in those final minutes, but the rock rolled back down the hill.

Penguins beat Caps 3-2. Penguins lead the series 2-1.

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Alex Ovechkin Scores On Impossibly Fast Shot

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Coming into tonight’s game, Alex Ovechkin had been held goalless for the last five playoff games. According to CSN’s Rob Carlin, Ovechkin had not gone more than six games all season without scoring.

I can report that streak remains intact.

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Pierre McGuire Slaps Matt Cullen’s Butt

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Earlier on Monday, Barry Trotz, frustrated by the length of Brooks Orpik’s three-game suspension, suggested the NHL favors the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This GIF doesn’t help with that appearance.

Pierre McGuire, who works for the NHL’s TV partner NBC, gave a friendly butt slap to Matt Cullen after the pregame interview.

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Kris Letang’s Headshot on Marcus Johansson

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The first period of Game Three was bad, but worse than the scoreboard was the image of Marcus Johansson collapsed on the ice after suffering a late headshot by Kris Letang.

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