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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Updates from the NHL Awards in Vegas

Alex Ovechkin poses with the Ted Lindsay Award, the only hardware he took home this year.

Jay Mohr, star of something, hosted the NHL Awards in Las Vegas tonight.  We watched with bated breath as three beloved players vied for recognition from the league’s notables.  Alex Ovechkin was up for the Lindsay (née Pearson) and the Hart, Mike Green for the Norris, and Jose Theodore for the Masterton.  Beyond the winners and loser, there’s some mighty important breaking news announced tonight, and we’ll tackle it all past the jump.

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Pens Will Host Caps in 2011 Winter Classic. Time For Payback!

When his queue frees up and motivation strikes, award-winning Carroll County Times’ Features Writer Brandon Oland does columns for RMNB. After today’s announcement of the 2011 Winter Classic, Brandon just had something he had to get off his chest.

Gary got his wish: Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh's idiotic fanbase will host the 2011 Winter Classic.

Gary got his wish: Sidney Crosby and his weeny terrible towel will be hosting the 2011 Winter Classic.

The Washington Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the latest edition of the hockey classic at an outdoor arena.

The two teams will play on New Year’s Day 2011 at Heinz Field, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This is an annoying development, of course, for the possibility that the Penguins fans will want to wave Terrible Towels at the hockey game. Terrible Towels are puny hand towels that Steelers fans wave with fury at home games.

So I have a suggestion for any Capital fans planning to make the trip to Pittsburgh. Capitals fans should come up with their own version of Terrible Towels that will mock and irk intellectually inferior Penguins fans to no end.

I propose every Capitals fan who travels to Pittsburgh should bring the biggest red beach towels they can find and wave them at tailgate parties. It would be a symbol of Washington’s financial superiority to rundown Pittsburgh. After all, beach towels are bigger and more expensive than hand towels.

If Penguins fans ask what you are doing, simply point out that you thought everyone was supposed to wave towels inside Heinz Field. Then wad up your towel and beat the Penguins fan over the head with it. What are they going to do? Strike back with a Terrible Towel?

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Tonight if you were like us, you sat in front of your TV, ate smoked salmon with a fork and laughed at Pittsburgh’s unlikely demise to the Habs. Sure, it totally sucked when the Capitals lost in the first round to this rag-tag group of “team players” from North of the Border. But after seeing Sid the Kid fail the ultimate test tonight (boarding penalty 10 seconds in which led to Habs first goal of the game, 0 points, -2), maybe – just maybe – this talk that Sidney Crosby is by far and away the best player in the game can die down a bit.

Really, SI?

Moving forward, please consider Alex Ovechkin’s Game 7 performance against the Canadiens in comparison: 10 shots, 1 assist and a clutch GTG that was uhhh questionably disallowed.

Sometimes another man’s pain is another man’s pleasure. And tonight that pain felt by Pens fans was the perfect tonic for this man’s broken heart.