Pens beat Caps 2-1, John Erskine vs Arron Asham

Rob Carr

Hit em for Beagle: John Erskine vs Arron Asham (Photo credit: Rob Carr)

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ first appointment in D.C. might also mark the beginning of drastic reformulation for the Washington Capitals. This was also the first meeting between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in 335 days and Crosby’s first date in D.C. since his concussion. Lots of hype, very little offense. Here’s how it went down:

Arron Asham hooked up Craig Adams for a lay up made even easier by some bad D from Orlov and Schultz. Chimera tied it up in the second with a blind backhand. Chris Kunitz beat everyone to give the Pens the go-ahead goal. The Caps just didn’t shoot. Pens beat Caps 2-1.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Pregame: The Epicenter of Suck

Illustration by Ian Oland

Heeeeeere’s Doug Johnson of PuckBuddys fame. Tweet his face.

The Pre-Game: I think it was Benjamin Disraeli who said “Sometimes cities just suck.” Or maybe it was Don Rickles. We’re getting our historical figures mixed up.

Look, there’s nothing that stinks about San Diego, the actual place. It’s lovely. Or Phoenix, for that matter, if it weren’t for all the whack-a-doodles. Vancouver: now there’s a dandy city for you! If you can just get over all the residents piously reminding you just precisely how dandy it is.

On the other end, there are places like Mogadishu, a city that, I can comfortably assure you, sucks. Or vacation paradise Pripyat!  – home to the entombed Chernobyl perpetual light bulb. Pyongyang. Philadelphia.

Then we come to the middle ground: decent places inhabited by truly awful organizations. Pittsburgh comes to mind. Hoorah, it’s beautiful and their food isn’t too toxic and the local rumor is that there’s even a museum or something. But it’s also home to the rat burrow of unctuous fink Richard Mellon Scaife and his poisonous heirs, and the ‘Terrible Towel’, which we rank as only just below Scaife as scabes-inducing. The Pittsburgh Penguins… and Dan Bylsma. Think about that for a moment: both the Penguins AND Bylsma (and his douche-hat) compressed into one geographic point. That single distinction alone  is enough to push Pittsburgh to new title holder: Epicenter of Suck.

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Caps Fans and Bad Habits: We Can Do Better

(Photo credit: @clydeorama. Go check out Clyde’s site.)

Rituals bind us to one another. In a fan community, rituals take many forms. In the clothing we wear, the cheers we shout, the fives we high– that’s where togetherness happens. It’s like a wholesome mob mentality, and everyone’s allowed in the mob so long as they can do a couple simple things.

Problem is: sometimes those rituals get us into trouble. Some rituals become bad habits, and those bad habits have got to go. You know what I’m talking about: It’s all your fault, Who Cares?, RED!, and a certain nickname for Sidney Crosby. It’s not cool anymore. Let’s discuss.

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Photo credit: Ethan Miller

Wednesday was a night of hardware in the NHL as the league’s annual awards show took place in Las Vegas. The night’s biggest winners? Corey Perry of the Ducks picked up the Hart, Ryan Kesler of the Canucks hoisted the Selke, baby-faced Jeff Skinner of the ‘Canes took home the Calder, Stanley Cup champion Bruin Tim Thomas won the Vezina and Washington fan favorite Disco Dan Bylsma of the Pens presented with the Jack Adams Award.

So how did the Capitals fare?

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Alex Ovechkin: “Hang On, Malych. Such is Life.”

Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom look for revenge on Matt Cooke.

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

In Sunday’s matinee against their most hated rival, the Washington Capitals had their second straight dominant performance, beating Pittsburgh at home 3-0. Since they lost to the Pens in game seven of the 2008-09 playoffs, the Capitals have won six out of their last seven meetings and have outscored the Pens 29-17 during that same span.

Unfortunately, there were two key incidents that overshadowed talk of the game itself. First, Tim Wallace tried to exact revenge on “Danger” Dave Steckel for his incidental contact with Sidney Crosby in the Winter Classic. And second, perrenial agitator Matt Cooke tried to take out the Great 8 with a knee-on-knee collision late in the third period.

After the game, SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov spoke with Alex Ovechkin and asked him what he thought about Cooke’s hit, the physical nature of hockey, and Evgeni Malkin’s season-ending injury. Below the jump, RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has the translation.

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Ovi tackles his teammates after Mike Knuble's second period goal.

Ovi tackles his teammates after Mike Knuble's second period goal. (Photo credit: Dave Sandford)

Photo credit: Gregory Shamus

After a year of build-up and three glorious episodes of HBO’s 24/7, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins finally met at Heinz Field in front of 68,111 loud, screaming fans to compete in the 2011 Winter Classic. Much like the 39 games before and the 42 games to follow, this game counted the exact same amount in the standings: two points.

But both you and I know it meant waaaaaay more than that. You could see it in how the Caps played, celebrated and spoke after the game. This was the biggest game they had ever played in their NHL careers. And it showed.

At 8:17pm the first puck dropped. It would then take over twenty-two compelling game minutes to see the 2011 Classic’s first goal. In the second period, Marc-Andre Fleury made a routine stick save along the ice on Alex Ovechkin. Kris Letang then took the rebound and alertly flung the puck up ice where he found a streaking Evgeny Malkin. The Capitals’ defense, caught on a bad change, allowed Malkin to go in all alone on Semyon Varlamov. Malkin went five-hole and the the Penguins took a 1-0 lead.

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We swear the puck went in.

We really want to talk to the person who gave their tickets to these guys. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

We really want to talk to the person who gave their tickets to these guys. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

There was certainly a special buzz in the air today. With most schools shutdown and most work-places deserted for the upcoming Christmas holiday, Caps fans traveled in droves to Kettler Capitals Iceplex to cheer on their hometown team during their pre-game skate. Why? Because the Pittsburgh Penguins were in town.

The energy the Caps felt in the morning certainly translated to the game as one minute in, Alex Ovechkin laid out frenemy, Evgeny Malkin, with one of his biggest hits of the season. The crowd went wild. The Penguins lost their composure. And seconds later, as Evgeny Malkin looked for retribution, he took a two minute interference call. The Capitals get a powerplay!

Unfortunately for our heroes, there was too much standing around, and there wasn’t enough crashing of the net in their ensuing man advantage. The Penguins savvily killed off the powerplay and seized back momentum immediately on a beautiful deflection goal by Sidney Crosby at 3:21.

Thirty-one game minutes later, the Capitals tied it up at the tail end of a 5-on-3 powerplay. Mike Green, who had pinched-in to the top of the face-off circle, riffled a slapshot to the top corner of the net. The game stayed tied 1-1, until the beginning of the third, when Sidney Crosby challenged three Capitals players, flicked the puck towards the net, and found Chris Kunitz who backhanded a shot home.

Things looked dicey until team leader Mike Knuble converted on a crazy 2-on-1 goal while the Caps were shorthanded. The two teams then went to Overtime. Despite what looked to be another goal by Mike Green, the extra five minutes of 4-on-4 hockey could not decide a victor. After an exciting shootout, Pascal Dupuis scored at the bottom of the 7th round. Pens beat Caps 3-2 (SO).

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Andrew Gordon Talks About His First NHL Goal

Editor’s note: Chris Gordon of Caps Snaps files this report on Andrew Gordon (no relation) and the first goal of his NHL career.

Capitals center Marcus Johansson raced down the left wing, picked up the loose puck and fired a cross-ice pass to Andrew Gordon, who jammed the puck past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur for his first career goal.

“When I first hit it, I didn’t know if it went in or not,” Gordon said after Wednesday’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “Once I saw [the red light], it was a real good feeling getting the first goal for the team and just knowing I contributed.”

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Crosby Talks to Maxim About Ovechkin and Nothing Else

Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin is the overriding narrative for the Winter Classic. You just know Doc, J.R., Milbury, and weird old Pierre are going to beat this horse to death. You know HBO is going to dedicate an entire reel of film to it. You know Mike Wise is going to write something as provocative as it is empirically wrong about it. Even Maxim magazine is getting in on the action.

October’s issue — the one with [generic Hollywood ingenue wearing lingerie] on the cover–  contains a Q&A with Pittsburgh’s superstar. Guess what they talk about:

Hm. Maxim describes Sidney Crosby as a 'Terminator like prodigy' and Ovi as a 'Flashy Showboat.' (via Wes Johnson)

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A Portrait of supposedly the 9th best Center in the NHL, Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Al Bello/Editing by Ian Oland of RMNB)

Adrian Dater had an interesting post naming the top 10 centers in the NHL. As you would expect with 30 teams, each with 4 centers, some big names were omitted. The ranking is also subject to much debate. Take a look:

  1. Sidney Crosby, PIT
  2. Pavel Datsyuk, DET
  3. Henrik Sedin, VAN
  4. Jonathan Toews, CHI
  5. Mike Richards, PHI
  6. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
  7. Mikko Koivu, MIN
  8. Joe Thornton, SJS
  9. Nicklas Backstrom, WSH
  10. Ryan Getzlaf, ANA

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