Sunday, January 02, 2011

Caps Win The Winter Classic

Capitals 3, Penguins 1
Game Summary

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Even with a light drizzle falling down and poor ice conditions, the Washington Capitals proved they could deal with a different kind of adversity. In what had to be the most hyped game with an HBO documentary crew following both teams, the league and networks revving up the rhetoric of the rivalry of the teams and both captains Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the Capitals play the perfect road game defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1.

Eric Fehr scored a pair of goals after coming into this game with only 5 goals to his credit. Mike Knuble would get a great garbage goal to tie up the game in the second period. The weather kept the skilled players from playing their style of play.

The game turned out to be a grinders paradise and Jay Beagle, a hard working grinder for the Caps, had the first two chances by getting his nose in front of the Pens net. It would be a muckers goal by Mike Knuble to get the Caps on the board after giving up the lead on a Evgeni Malkin break away goal. Nick Backstrom just kept the puck in front after a point shot, with the traffic in front of Marc-Andre Fleury. Knuble found the banged in the loose puck past the Penguin goaltender.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The goal energized the Capitals forechecking and they kept the pressure on. When Fleury mishandled the puck, speedy forward Marcus Johansson was able to pick up the loose puck behind the net and find Fehr in front with a wide open net.

Fehr would add a second goal and some insurance in the third after John Erskine made a solid break out pass to Jason Chimera. Chim played a give and go with Fehr and it broke the winger open. Fehr would beat Fleury high glove side to give the Caps a two goal lead.

The Penguins would make a last ditch effort to try and tie it up, but the Caps stood tall on defense. At one point they stood at the blue line prompting play by play man Doc Emrick called them the white picket fence. It would lead to some rough play with just .6 seconds left as the rivalry went to another level as both teams gave a few face washes and end up leaving the ice with out shaking hands.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The title bout was in the first period. John Erskine took on Michael Rupp in a heavyweight bout that saw both players landing some haymakers. Erskine did stumble after Rupp connected, but he got right back up and landed a few of his own before Rupp had to call it quits due to a contact lens problem. 

With all the hype on both Ovechkin and Crosby, neither found their way onto the scoring sheet. Ovechkin did have a goal that was waved off after he made contact before that with Fleury. But both players were kept in check for the most part of the game.

Crosby was hit as the second period ended by David Steckel. Sid was caught not paying attention to where he was going and when the play shifted, he was looking behind and Steckel was charging up the ice. The Pens' coaching staff called it incidental contact.

The best Capitals player had to be Semyon Varlamov. Faced with a bouncing puck and some serious rubber from the Penguins stood tall in net. He played his rebounds as best as he could considering the conditions. Shots from the outside he was able to see, a credit to the defensive core in front for boxing out crashing Penguins. Varly would turn away 32 shots as his teammates helped by blocking 16 shots. While Fleury went a wandering from his net from time to time, Varly stayed in his net and didn't turn over the puck that lead to any scoring chances for the Penguins.

In the end, it's just two points. It is a huge confidence boost for the Capitals as they shake free from a bad stretch of games to get their third straight win. They now are unbeaten in regulation in their last six games. They also creep up the Eastern Conference ladder as they are just one game behind the leading Penguins but remain behind Tampa in the division in a tie (Caps have played 2 more games than the Bolts which is the tiebreaker to this point).

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