Thursday, May 07, 2009

Caps Outplayed

Capitals 2, Penguins 3 OT
Scoresheet - Post - Times

Outside of the first ten minutes of the first period, the Washington Capitals did not even looked like they belonged on the same ice as the Pittsburgh Penguins. Out shot in nearly every period outside of the first, the Caps played sloppy and undisciplined game and they only reason the game propelled itself into overtime was because of the outstanding play of Semyon Varlamov.

Things started off pretty good for the Caps. A funny bounce off of a Mike Green dump in caught Marc-Andre Fleury off guard. The puck squirted out front and Alex Ovechkin had a wide open net to score the game's first goal just 1:23 into the game. The goal seemed to stun the home crowd and the home team. But the Caps couldn't take advantage of their next opportunities and the tide began to turn as the Caps took some ill advised penalties.

"The first 10 minutes wasn't our sharpest," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. "This was a big game with implications of possibly going down 0-3, and we executed like that was the case. Once we got our feet under us we started getting in the offensive zone with execution and speed. The second period was a really good period for us to push and drive."

From then on it was all Penguins. Sure the Caps seemed to have a chance here and there, but Pittsburgh turned up the heat and the ice was tilted through the second half of the first period and then for the second and third. The Pens scored in the second as Milan Jurcina, who had a good game for the most part, blocked the pass on the two on one. But the puck went right back to the passer Ruslan Fedotenko and he beat Varlamov for the Penguins first goal.

The Pens seemed to do no wrong and the penalties just started mounting for the Caps. The sleeping giant in Evgeni Malkin finally woke up in this series as he was clearly the Pens best player. He drew a hooking call on Alex Semin as the constant pressure from the Pens caught Caps out of position. On the ensuing power play, Malkin roofed the puck past Varlamov for the power play goal.

The Caps made a last ditch effort to tie the game up when they pulled Varlamov for an extra attacker. And miraculously, Nick Backstrom got the game tying goal with just over a minute left in the game. In a game that the Capitals had no business scoring another goal, they did and forced overtime.

In the overtime period, the Caps came out with some life. Early on, Ovi had a prime opportunity as the sea of Penguins parted and he had a perfect shooting lane. But Ovechkin put too much bend in his stick and the curve allowed the puck to slip past and he whiffed the shot. The game winning shot came off of Kris Letang's stick off of a face off win by Sidney Crosby. The point shot was deflected in front of Varlamov by Shaone Morrisonn and that sent the home crowd into a tizzy.

It also, thankfully, ended that game for the Capitals who just didn't look very good in this game at all. Tom Poti may be the other defenseman hurt, because he just didn't look very effective in this game. But that could be said of just about every Capital. They couldn't get the puck deep and when they did, their forecheck was nonexistent. The frustration level seems to hit a new level for Caps coach Bruce Boudreau.

"They were in our zone, we were backtracking and I think I told them after the second period that we were playing not to lose rather than to win," Boudreau said. "That's just what it looked like because we were getting the puck in, but we weren't forechecking so we were just sitting back and letting them come back at us."

Unlike in games one and two, the aggressive nature of the Caps defense was not there. Instead they laid back and allowed the Penguins to set up in their zone. From then on it was just chasing the puck around for long stretches in their own zone.

"We still have a lead [in the series], but I think they deserved to win," said Ovechkin. "They played better than us, and I think everybody saw it."

Both Boudreau and Ovechkin called attention to the officiating in the game. The Caps were called for 7 minor penalties while the Penguins were only called for two.

"They had only two penalties," Ovi said. "It's kind of a joke."

"As far as penalties go, I hope I never hear them complain about penalties again, picks, and everything else," Boudreau told reporters at his press conference. "I think we might have deserved the penalties, but they sure as hell deserved a few more than they got."

The only bright spot and the only reason the game even had an overtime period was the spectacular play of Varlamov. He stopped 39 shots and all three goals couldn't really be blamed on him. He earned the game's third star.

"He was outstanding," Boudreau said at his post game press conference. "When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don't come around every day."

The Capitals have once again squandered an excellent goaltending effort and come up short handed. If this is not a wake up call for the Caps, than this maybe a team that doesn't deserve to win. As it stands right now, they do have a 2-1 series lead and they have another chance to make go up 3-1 with a game on Friday night.

This is just a disappointing game for the Caps. We have seen them play much better than this. And it was just a matter of time that the Caps would break. They have to get back to their aggressive nature, getting the puck deep, putting pressure on the Pens' defense and jumping up on their explosive forwards.

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