Sunday, February 07, 2010

Epic Game Marks Caps 14th Straight Win

Capitals 5, Penguins 4 OT
Game Summary

The story could have been about the Penguins' journey to Washington DC after two and half feet of snow that fell in a blizzard the day before. Or it could have been about Sidney Crosby's dominance over the Washington Capitals with two goals in the first period. Or it could have been about Jordan Staal's late in the second period goals nearly putting the Caps away for good and going up 4-1. Instead, this story is about a winning streak that 14 and got some help from #8.

Alex Ovechkin would be the first Capital of the year to net a hattrick, Eric Fehr got a timely goal late in the second period and Mike Knuble scored the game winner in overtime. And the winning streak continues.

The game had a playoff feel to it as both teams came out flying. It had a little bit of everything. "It's what people paid to see," said Caps' bench boss Bruce Boudreau. "When the superstars shine and there is tension and excitment and there is physical play and you can see the passion on both sides. That is what hockey is all about."

It was all the NBC analysts could talk about as the Penguins jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period. The Penguins were sending a message. The Caps were turning the puck over in the neutral zone and the Penguins were quick to jump on the play. Crosby benefited of a turnover scoring unassisted. Then he scored on the power play moments later as the Caps missed played collapsing on Evgeni Malkin and leaving #87 wide open. Just like that, the Pens were up 2-0.

Ovi would open the scoring in for the Capitals mid-way through the second period. He took a pass from Jeff Schultz up the middle and shot the puck so hard, it shattered the camera box in the back of the net. There would be a delay after the goal as they replaced the shattered shield.

But the Penguins would not let up on their attack. Staal, brother to Marc (Rangers) and Eric ('Canes), scored a pair of goals to stretch the lead to 4-1. It seemed that Eric Fehr's goal later in the period wouldn't matter much as the Caps got into penalty trouble. Late in the period they found themselves down two men as the period finished.

The Caps would kill the penalty and then turn on the offense in the 3rd period.

"The crowd kept pushing us in the third period," Ovechkin said. "We just kept going and kept going. It was pretty sick."

Ovechkin took over the game netting a goal after Tom Poti's shot was knocked down in front. Ovi's quick hands propelled the puck past Marc Andre Fluery's pads. Then he buried an off speed shot from the face off to beat the Penguins' goaltender to tie the game. Just like that, the Penguins watched a three goal advantage slip away.

The Penguins would not quit, pressuring the Caps late. Even with the travel difficulties the Penguins endured, they seemed to keep the Caps on their heels late in the game. "I felt our team had plenty of jump," Penguins' coach, Dan Bylsma said about using the tough travel into Washington. "I think our guys looked good, it didn't have anything to do with [the travel]." But they couldn't convert and the game would go into overtime.

In overtime, both teams had their chances. Brooks Orpik would take a high sticking call 2:26 into overtime. Orpik caught Alex Semin high after Semin got rid of the puck. "He’s a baby," Orpik told reporters after the game. "I don’t know [if it was a high stick] but he does that all game long. I got zero respect for the kid."

But a penalty was called and it would only take 13 seconds later when Ovechkin rang a shot off the post and the puck trickled back into the blue paint under Fluery. Mike Knuble wins the game as he slides the rebound in under the Penguins' goaltender. It capped a 3 goal deficit and keeps the Capitals' win streak alive.

The game had it's share of chippiness and some cheap plays. Craig Adams pushed Ovechkin into the boards in the first, the All Star fell awkwardly into the dasher. Adams would not be called for the penalty, but Mike Knuble came to the rescue. Knuble would receive two minutes for instigating as well as a 5 for fighting, 10 misconduct.

The Caps will get a day off tomorrow before facing Montreal and Ottawa on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. They are have just three games before the Olympic break. If they win against the Habs and Sens, they have a chance to tie the NHL's record for longest win streak at 17.

Caps Notes
  • In a weird coincidence, the Capitals farm team Hershey Bears found themselves down by three goals to come back and win it against Pittsburgh's farm team Wilkes/Barre Penguins on a hattrick by Mathieu Perreault to win 5-4.
  • Nick Backstrom and Mike Knuble both had a pair of points (Backstrom 2a, Knuble 1g, 1a).
  • Crosby tied Ovechkin for the goals lead in the NHL with his two goals, just to see Ovechkin score three goals and lead by as much.
  • Ovechkin is the first player with 40 goals every season since the lockout (only Ilya Kovalchuk can join him) via @washcaps.

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