Capitals 3, Penguins 5
Scoresheet - Times - Post
Another great start for the Capitals turns to disaster as we finally see the human side of Semyon Varlamov. The Penguins finally soften up the rookie goaltender and got the goals they needed. The Cap however looked lethargic at times and just out of sorts others. The Penguins bring the series back to Washington with the series now tied at two games a piece with a 5-3 win.
Again, the Caps get off to a great start when Nick Backstrom scored just :36 seconds into the game. His slapshot slipped past Marc-Andre Fleury and the away team had scored it's fourth straight first goal in the series. The celebration was short lived as the Penguins came back to score the next three goals.
Varlamov, for the first time in the playoffs, has looked beatable. The first goal was a clear shot from Sergei Gonchar that beat him. Then the Pens got a garbage goal from Bill Guerin and Varly was beat again. This time from a Ruslan Fedotenko shot that somehow beat Varlamov's glove. Soft goal number two allowed the Pens to build up a two goal lead.
"He struggled," Bruce Boudreau said of his goaltender's performance. "There were four soft goals out of the five. But he'll bounce back. He's a real competitive guy."
From that point on, the Caps just did not look very good. They couldn't get their break out under control, their passes were sloppy and they just looked disconnected. The Caps did get a late goal in the second to make it interesting. Alex Ovechkin carried it over the blue line and centered the puck to a break Mike Green down the middle. Green made a few good moves and hit the post with his shot. But Chris Clark was there to put in the garbage when the puck bounced on the goal line.
The Caps power play could have been called their sloppy play. There was no movement, they were just standing around watching the puck carrier. The passes were sloppy and often anywhere but on the tape of their teammate's sticks. Some key power plays ended up with one shot on net and a slew of missed opportunities.
"They were desperate down here," Boudreau said. "Alex is only human, he can't be unbelievable every night. He's a great player, he just had one of those nights where he's not going to get three goals."
The Caps felt they had to press and got caught being a bit too aggressive. The result was a two on one the other way for the Penguins. They restore their two goal lead and the Caps took a penalty not too long after that. Things were looking pretty dire for the Caps when a surprise shorthanded goal gave the Capitals some late life. Milan Jurcina cashes in on some great hitting by Matt Bradley. The puck gets up to Jurcina on the point and he rifles a shot past Fleury.
But that would be the high water mark for the Capitals as once again Varlamov let in a soft goal with just over 5 minutes left in the game. The Caps pulled the goalie in a last ditch effort to score, but the damage had been done. They couldn't get past the Penguins' as they built up a wall around Fleury by blocking shots. The Caps just couldn't get the puck to the slot in front of Fleury.
The Caps, once again, did not play their game. Instead they sat back and let the Pens come at them. When they had the momentum, they just couldn't sustain any more pressure. They just need to pick what kind of team they are going to be when they play the Penguins. They either have to be the aggressive team or the lay back defensive team. This hybrid way of playing is screwing them up.
There was some dirty stuff in the game that seemed to stem from Ovechkin's leg hit on Sergei Gonchar. The hit was leg on leg and Ovi was penalized for tripping on the play. The Penguins, however, want the league to look at the tape and deal with Ovechkin's hit severely by suspending him. Ovechkin did look like he was going for the shoulder check when Gonchar stepped aside to try to avoid the hit.
"Yeah, it probably was knee on knee. I tried to hit him with my shoulder and he just moved left [into] the same spot," Ovechkin said.
The Penguins took some liberties toward the end of the game as well. Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal double teamed a hit on Shaone Morrisonn. Evgeni Malkin elbowed Jurcina that was not called either.
As bad as things look, there are some positives. Clark's goal was a good for the Caps who need to start crashing the net and putting pressure on a defensive squad that does break down. Jurcina's goal was a goal of opportunity and the Caps needed a shortie just to get something down for special teams. And the Caps can pull from Bradley's push in the offensive zone to create havoc and give his team a chance. If they can add more energy and spark, the Caps will do okay.
Jay Beagle was the recalled forward who saw some good action early and played well for a shift and half. That was until he got hit in the first and we never saw him again. He played two short shifts in the second and didn't see any ice time in the third period.
Tyler Sloan sat out in favor of John Erskine coming back into the line up. Erskine played okay, but he was a little out of sorts at times with his team. Karl Alzner was sent back down to Hershey as the Baby Pens won tonight 6-3 to tie their series in the AHL with the Bears at two games apiece.
Now the series returns to Washington, just 24 hours after the drop of the puck for game four. The Pens have the momentum coming back to DC as each team jump on a plane and head back to the phone booth. The Caps can draw on their home crowd for some jump, but they can't afford to play like they did in games three and four. It's the little things that are killing them, that extra little effort that the Penguins are showing and the Capitals aren't.