September 22, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 67 Recap: Caps stymied in 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh

The task of making the playoffs just keeps getting harder and harder for the Washington Capitals.

Tuesday night, after being shut out in Pittsburgh 2-0, the Caps fell three points out of a wildcard spot while all the teams they are trailing (Columbus, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Detroit) still have games in hand.

It was the Capitals fifth loss in six games overall and seventh straight loss to the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury, not tested through the first two periods, was terrific in the third stopping all 20 Caps shots for 32 saves total in the game.

Pittsburgh got its first goal during a non-stop first period that didn’t see a whistle for over 13 minutes. At 16:41, Evgeni Malkin picked Dmitry Orlov’s pocket and dropped a pass to D Matt Niskanen at the right wing point. Niskanen’s blast was tipped by Olli Jokinen, who had eluded Mike Green, and the puck skittered past Jaroslav Halak (32 saves) to put the Pens up 1-0. The Caps were outshot 13-6 in the period, with the Penguins enjoying a 21-12 advantage in total shot attempts.

There was no scoring in the second period. Though the Penguins had plenty of chances – outshooting the Caps 13-6 in the frame — the best chance of the period came from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who corralled a rebound just to Marc-Andre’ Fleury’s right and flipped it toward the right post. Kuznetsov’s shot eluded Fleury’s right foot but hit the post straight on and deflected harmlessly away from the net.

The Penguins added an insurance goal in the third period. Dmitry Orlov tried to keep a puck in the offensive zone, but recently-acquired Lee Stempniak kicked it ahead to a streaking Sidney Crosby, who came in on a two-on-one against Connor Carrick. Crosby poised to pass, but at the last sent a screaming wrist shot past Halak blocker-side.

The Caps were awarded two third period power plays, but could do nothing with them, nor could they succeed with an extra skater for much of the last two minutes of the game.

Washington was a woeful 31.9 percent in the faceoff circle.

The Caps are off until Friday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.

Washington Capitals Game 66 Recap: Caps fall behind, then fall to Pens 3-2

“It very tough because the guys played a good game. Probably one of the better games we’ve played against that team. To come out on the short end of the stick is difficult. We did a lot of good things in the game.” Adam Oates

Every game that slips off the schedule is one less opportunity for the Washington Capitals to increase their chances to qualify for the playoffs. There are no moral victories at this point in the season, especially for a team on the outside looking in. On Monday, in front of a divided house at Verizon Center, the Caps lost another one of those opportunities, as they fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins early and eventually lost 3-2.

The Capitals are 0-6-0 against Pittsburgh under head coach Adam Oates.

It’s the Caps fourth loss in their last five games after four straight wins. With 16 games remaining on the schedule — staring at a game in Pittsburgh then a three-game west coast road trip — they are quickly running out of time.

Chris Kunitz scored twice for the Pens — their first and last goals of the evening — sandwiched around a Sidney Crosby goal. Crosby assisted on both of Kunitz’ goals and pretty much had his way with the Caps every time he stepped on the ice. The Penguins were able to take advantage of multiple defensive breakdowns by the Caps, despite being outshot 33-20.

Perhaps when Caps GM George McPhee made his comments about the Caps defensive systems allowing shots from the perimeter, the Penguins didn’t get the memo.

Eric Fehr and Nick Backstrom scored for the Caps. Backstrom’s goal tied the game at two early in the second period as the Caps unleashed a barrage of shots against backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff (31 saves).

But not three minutes later, Kunitz responded with his second of the game, his 31st of the season.

For the Caps, the loss is doubly frustrating as they probably played their best game in three weeks in terms of puck possession, but in the end, the Penguins were simply the better team.

“It’s a little frustrating to really have dominant time of possession and be playing well then find yourself down 3-2 and not being able to recover,” Fehr said. “We had a lot of good chances at the end, and it’s really unfortunate. I thought we threw everything at them, and we were good in the offensive zone. We created chances; we just couldn’t put that last one in.”

The Capitals are currently one point behind both Columbus and Detroit for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and face the daunting prospect of playing in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. With games just falling off the calendar at this point, the Caps can’t afford any more moral victories. Only the ones in the standings matter anymore.

CAPS NOTES: Evgeny Kuznetsov made his long-awaited NHL debut Monday night. Kuznetsov started on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and fellow rookie Tom Wilson, but also took shifts on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom, and also got some power play time in as well. Kuznetsov, donning sweater No. 92, played 10:22 in total, with 1:10 of power play time. He has two shots on goal and was credited with a blocked shot.

“I was a little bit worried the first time I stepped on the ice, but with each shift I got better and better,” Kuznetsov said of his performance. “I understood what I needed to do and how I needed to play…This is my first game, but a lot of players have told me that it’s just like the Russian rivalries. [They are] just like that ones we have in Russia, so I know what it’s like.”

Washington Capitals Game 47 Recap: Caps play better but still lose in Pittsburgh 4-3

Early in the season, the Washington Capitals had a habit of not playing particularly well possession-wise and pulling out a win regardless, a lot of the time in a shootout. Recently, that trend has reversed as the Caps have played much better in the past couple of weeks, only to find themselves losing ground in the standings.

That pattern played out again Wednesday night, as the Caps played even with the Pittsburgh Penguins most of the night, but gave up two late goals in the third period and fell to the Pens 4-3 at CONSOL Energy Center.

For Pittsburgh, the win marks their franchise-record 13th straight win at home.

The Capitals (22-17-8) find themselves tied with Philadelphia at 52 points for second in the mediocre Metropolitan Division, just five points ahead of seventh place Carolina.

The Caps got goals from Brooks Laich (5), Jason Chimera (9) and Alex Ovechkin, his league-leading 34th of the season. But Jussi Jokinen tied the game at 3 at 11:35 of the third period, then Olli Maatta won it with his fourth goal of the season, shot through a maze of bodies just off the left post past Michal Neuvirth, playing in his second game since early December.

Though neither Penguins goal was a power play marker, late in the game the Caps had to be feeling the affects of three third period penalties — and playing their fifth game in seven days.

“You have to know how much juice you have left in the tank,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “We blew two leads. On both goals, I thought we should change, but we didn’t. We got caught a little tired and we made mistakes and they have great players.”

The Caps scored first — short-handed– as Karl Alzner took advantage of a rare Penguins miscue along the left wing wall and pushed the puck up to Laich, who walked into the offensive zone with Troy Brouwer on a 2-on-1. Laich tried to play the puck across to Brouwer but ended up toe-dragging around a fallen Pens defenseman and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrist shot from close range.

The Penguins tied the game at 9:53 in the second, as a deft Penguins breakout against the Caps top line resulted in a 4-on-2, with Kris Letang victimizing Neuvirth (33 saves) for his ninth of the campaign.

Chimera’s tap-in, on a beautiful slap pass from Marcus Johansson, gave the Caps the lead back at 14:31. But that lead was short-lived, as Tyler Pyatt got inside position on John Erskine at the top of the crease and banged home a pass from Maatta to make it 2-2.

Washington grabbed a 3-2 lead at 8:35 in the third, playing 4-on-4. Mike Green fed Johansson along the goal line and he waited for Ovechkin to shake loose in the left wing faceoff circle. Ovechkin’s lethal one-timer escaped Fleury and gave Caps fans reason to hope that the cycle of well-played games would result in points in the standings on this occasion.

That was not to be the case, however.

Once again at 4-on-4, Dmitry Orlov lost track of Jokinen, who took a pass from Brandon Sutter on the right post for a slam dunk at 11;35, then Maatta took a handoff from Evgeni Malkin — who was allowed to skate unencumbered through and around the Caps defense — stepped up to create a double-screen, when whipped a wrist shot past the unaware Neuvirth for the final dagger.

The Caps continue their road trip Friday at 7:00 pm ET against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Washington Capitals Game 22 Recap: Caps fail to match Pens’ intensity after falling down two goals early

“We could have played much harder, and for whatever reason it didn’t come out.” Karl Alzner, on the Caps intensity after falling behind early.

Coming off arguably their most complete win of the season, a 4-1 victory over a good St. Louis Blues team, the Washington Capitals had every expectation of playing well against Metropolitan Division arch-rival Pittsburgh Wednesday night.

Unfortunately, nothing was further from the truth.

The Capitals were out-shot 40-18, four different Penguins scored, including Sidney Crosby, and Marc-Andre Fleury was barely tested en route to a 4-0 Penguins shutout that was as deflating and demoralizing as one would expect.

“We obviously came out pretty good, had a power play [early] - they get one and it kind of deflated us,” head coach Adam Oates said, “and we seemed to fight uphill battles after that the whole night.”

The Caps (12-9-1) did indeed have the early advantage, benefitting from a tripping call against Pens forward Craig Adams, just 3:24 into the affair. But following the failed power play, where the best opportunities came while the Caps skated 6-on-5 during the delayed call, the Pens (14-8-0) got an offensive zone draw. Sidney Crosby, who drew a ton of boos during introductions — and literally every time he touched the puck – won the draw cleanly back to Paul Martin at the point, and the defenseman flung the puck toward the net and past a surprised Braden Holtby, who reacted as if he never saw the shot.

It was the start of a tough night for Holtby, who despite making 36 saves in the game, admittedly wasn’t at his best.

On the sheer number of shots, Holtby remarked, “I don’t feel like it’s too much. I feel like I can handle that.” He later acknowledged though, that the soft first goal sort of set a tone for the night. “You get  goals like the first goal that just have eyes when you throw them at the net — sooner or later you’re going to get luck on your side. But in saying that, even though there is a high shot total, I thought I could have done better in the game today.”

Describing the shot, Holtby said, “Kind of saw the release, knew it was kind of going glove side somewhere. Didn’t really know where. That’s one of those that just sometimes go in. I’d like to see again if I could have found a better lane to see the puck. But that’s shoulda, woulda, coulda, you know?”

The goal against seemed to deflate the entire Caps team, as the Penguins then dominated play for the next couple of minutes, keeping the play in the Caps end. Then, attempting a breakout, Michael Latta had his pocket picked at center ice by Beau Bennett, and Bennett beat three Capitals skaters into the offensive zone and snapped a shot clean past Holtby to give the Pens a quick 2-0 lead. By that point, the Penguins had outshot the Caps 13-2 and by the end of the first period, the difference had grown to 17-6, and the Caps had gone 0-for-3 on the power play.

Alex Ovechkin, who had two shots on goal but another eight that either missed or were blocked, assessed the early turning point in the game. “I think we gave up two goals – I think we play well first five minutes [of first period], get a power play, hit the post and you know, they score goal right away after that play. And you know, in the second period we make a little push but it was not good enough.”

Nick Backstrom was even less diplomatic. “They got two early goals and they controlled the game, I think, after that.”

“They were better than us today.”

When asked if this was a case of the Caps getting down quickly and not be able to match the Penguins’ intensity, Karl Alzner replied, “I don’t know if it’s ‘We couldn’t’. We didn’t. And that was the problem. We could have played much harder, and for whatever reason it didn’t come out. Maybe we were hoping for things to just kinda happen for us and get bounces and stuff and just have our momentum come from that. They made us work for whatever little stuff we did get but it wasn’t enough.”

A frenetic second period saw Pittsburgh continue to own most of the play, but the Caps showed some signs of life. That is, until 18:26 of the frame, when the Caps took a too-many-men penalty. The back-breaker came with a mere 29 seconds left in the period, as Crosby finally solved Holtby off a pass from James Neal, who moments earlier frustrated Troy Brouwer to the point of Brouwer taking a full two-handed swing at Neal’s legs. Fortunately for both, the axe-swing failed to connect.

Oates took responsibility for the botched line change that lead to the goal, but the damage to the scoreboard was done, regardless.

Neal put the icing on the cake for the Pens in third. He walked in alone on the right wing, skated to the left, and whipped a wrist shot past a flat-footed Holtby to make it 4-0.

The Capitals are off until Friday, when they host the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 pm at Verizon Center.

Washington Capitals Game 29 Recap: Squandered opportunity in Pittsburgh

With just 20 games to play in this lockout-truncated season and sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, if the Washington Capitals have any hope of resurrecting their moribund playoff hopes, they need to secure every single point available to them. For the better part of almost 48 minutes, the Caps were playing even with the Pittsburgh Penguins, their arch-enemies — on hostile ice.

But a wasted four-minute power play in the third period led directly to an opportunistic goal the other way, and the Caps fell that much further behind the eight-ball, losing to the Penguins 2-1 before a raucous and appreciative crowd at Consol Energy Center.

The win is Pittsburgh’s 10th in a row, and solidifies their hold on the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The loss drops the Capitals to 12-16-1, 13th in the conference, seven points out of a playoff spot and nine points off the Southeast Division lead, held by their opponent for the next two games, the Winnipeg Jets.

The Pens’ Matt Cooke gave the Caps a four-minute man-advantage at 7:49 of the third. The feisty winger got the first two minutes for boarding Alex Ovechkin on a somewhat questionable call, then another two for unsportsmanlike conduct after screaming at the refs from the penalty box, then slamming the door behind him in disgust.

The Caps could not take advantage of the situation.

Time after time, the Caps had trouble even entering the Penguins zone, with the Pens really pressing the puck at every opportunity. The Caps managed a miserly two shots on goal during the advantage. At the last precious seconds of the power play ticked off the clock, the puck — as it so often does — found the stick of Pens captain Sidney Crosby (two assists). Crosby carried up ice and found Cooke racing to the left wing after exiting the penalty box. Cooke calmly held until defenseman Matt Niskanen could join the rush and Cooke hit the defenseman in stride in the high slot.

Niskanen’s slap shot rose over the prone Karl Alzner, who had laid down in attempt to block the shot, and avoided Braden Holtby’s catching glove to break the tie, seize all the momentum, and eventually prove the game-winner for the Penguins.

Though plenty of time remained on the game clock, for all intent and purposes, it was over.

The teams played to a scoreless tie in the first period, with neither team really pressing an advantage. The best scoring chance for either team came with just over two minutes remaining, when Pascual Dupuis and Sidney Crosby came into the Caps zone with speed. Dupuis held the puck long enough to find Crosby breaking for the net and slipped a pass through that would have been a gimme for Crosby, but a back-checking Troy Brouwer was able to tie up the perennial All-Star at the very last to break up the play.

The Penguins held a slight shot advantage at the close of 20 minutes, at 11-10, but both goalies were sharp to start.

The Caps drew first blood, midway through the second period. With Penguins rookie Beau Bennett off for tripping, Washington’s highly-rated power play struck. Mike Ribeiro, as he so often has this season, started the play, finding Troy Brouwer nestled at the hashmarks just off the right wing circle. Brouwer’s shot bounced off Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (28 saves) right to the sniping Alex Ovechkin, who snapped the bouncing puck off the left post and behind Fleury to put the Caps up.

It was Ovechkin’s 12 goal of the season and Ribeiro’s 18th power play point, tops in the NHL.

The power play opportunity put the refs at high notice, and less than a minute later they nabbed Jason Chimera for a hooking call that might have gone unnoticed earlier in the game. Regardless, the Caps PK did a solid job for much of the duration, but ran out of steam at the last. Crosby gathered a puck in the left wing circle and instead of shooting, found defenseman Paul Martin in perfect position in the high slot. Martin’s slap shot evaded Holtby (34 saves), who had trouble seeing through John Carlson to pick up the play.

The Capitals travel to Winnipeg for back-to-back matchups with the Jets at 8:00 pm Eastern Thursday and Friday, which could very well prove to be either the jump-start the Caps need to get back into a contending position, or alternatively be the final nail in their coffin for 2013.

Washington Capitals Game 11 Recap: Frustration mounts as Caps are buried by Penguins

If you thought the Washington Capitals’ loss Tuesday on home ice to the Toronto Maple Leafs was bad, well, it was. But the five-goal onslaught in the second period by the Pittsburgh Penguins was probably the worst 20 minutes of hockey the Caps have played all season, and the resultant 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh drops the Cpas to a league-worst 2-8-1.

Their five points earned in 11 games would be a 37-point pace over 82 games.

It’s the Caps first regulation loss in Pittsburgh since 2007. The Capitals are still winless on the road this season.

The Caps actually got on the board first, with Mike Ribeiro netting his fourth goal of the season. Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got tangled up with his own defenseman, Brooks Orpik, and lost his mask, giving Ribeiro an opportunity to take advantage of a rare mistake by the opposition this season. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game Nine Postgame Audio: Oates, Holtby, Brouwer, Ovechkin & More

WASHINGTON–The Washington Capitals lost their sixth game of the season falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 in front of a sold out Verizon Center.

The Capitals tied it up early in the second off one of the flukiest goals you’ll ever seen, but fell apart soon afterwards.  Head Coach Adam Oates though was happy with how they played.

“I thought we played a good, solid hockey game.”

Oates also said he thought captain Alex Ovechkin played his best game of the season.  The players disagreed with Oates’ assessment that they are playing well.

“We’ve got guys trying to do too much right now,”  veteran Troy Brouwer said.  “Because of the situation that we’re in, everyone wants to win it for themselves.”

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby stopped 20-of-26 shots and he thinks the problem is more of what’s happening in their heads then on the ice.

“I think the biggest thing is just our mental game isn’t strong enough.”

Capitals forward Wojtek Wolski says they need to just start burying some pucks when they get some chances.

“We get a lot of chances and create a lot of offense but we need to just put the puck in the net. That’s the biggest thing. When we do get those opportunities, there are chances to change the game, change the momentum, we haven’t capitalized.”

The Caps have a chance to get back on track against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Tuesday.

Listen here to what Adam Oates, Braden Holtby, Troy Brouwer, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro & Wojtek Wolski had to say following the loss.

Adam Oates Postgame Audio

02-03-13 Adam Oates Postgame RAW

Braden Holtby Postgame Audio

02-03-13 Braden Holtby Postgame RAW

Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio

02-03-13 Troy Brouwer Postgame RAW

Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio

02-03-13 Alex Ovechkin Postgame RAW

Mike Ribeiro Postgame Audio

02-03-13 Mike Ribeiro Postgame RAW

Wojtek Wolski Postgame Audio

02-03-13 Wojtek Wolski Postgame RAW

Washington Capitals Game 9 Recap: Second-Period Pens Flurry Sinks Caps

While the Washington Capitals matched the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first 26 minutes of their Super Bowl Sunday clash, the Caps’ effort came unglued in a 37-second span in the second period and ended up losing 6-3 in their only meeting of the regular season at Verizon Center.

Chris Kunitz ended up with a hat trick for the visiting Penguins in the game’s final seconds, but the game was lost well before the final horn.

A fluke goal by John Carlson lifted the Capitals into a 2-2 tie 4:03 into the second period, and Washington was given a power-play just 12 seconds after the strange tally to try and get their first lead of the afternoon.

Despite controlling the zone time with a decent power-play effort, Washington failed to score. Pittsburgh countered soon after the penalty kill, and Kris Letang fired a wrist shot that Capitals starter Braden Holtby couldn’t get all of, giving the Pens a 3-2 lead as the puck rolled in the cage.

It was a shot that Holtby knew he should have had, and left him looking at the arena rafters as a result. It also proved to be a big turning point.

“It would have been big to score a goal on the PP, and get us a lead there,” Backstrom said. “It would have been a different situation.”

Less than a minute after the Letang goal, Kunitz snapped a shot over Holtby’s shoulder, giving Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead in the game and sagging the Capitals’ hopes.

“We had a good power play, I thought we were moving it around well, afterwards, they picked it up a little bit, got two quick goals and it kind of deflated us and we weren’t able to recover,” Troy Brouwer said afterwards.

Pittsburgh took full command of the game later in the frame, taking a 5-2 lead with 6:01 left in the second while Wojtek Wolski was serving a tripping minor, giving the Penguins 3 goals on just 5 shots on Holtby in the first 13:59 of the second.

“It’s a tough break,” Wolski said. “I would have liked to stayed out of the box, obviously didn’t try to trip him, but they score and they’re up by two. It puts us behind and we’ve got to work extra hard. I think overall we did put in the effort and got a bunch of goals on the power play and it wasn’t a bad game for us, but a disappointing loss.”

For a Washington team looking to build some momentum in a short season, it was a difficult middle period for Holtby, who has been inconsistent so far in four appearances this season.

Oates said afterwards he thought about making a goaltending change, but felt Holtby deserved a chance to right the ship.

“There was a time I thought about pulling him,” Oates said. “But you know what, the guy’s been very good for this franchise the last year and I thought he earned the right to stay in there and fight through it.”

The two teams had an exciting start to the game, with the two teams trading chances.

Paul Martin got the Penguins on the board first, blasting a shot past Holtby, with the puck deflecting off Carlson’s shin pad into the cage.

Mike Green answered just 1:28 later, taking a big hit behind the net, but wobbled to the slot and blasted a Wolski centering feed past former Capitals netminder Tomas Vokoun to square the game.

But Pittsburgh got the lead back 3:15 later, as Matt Cooke tipped a Deryk Engelland drive past Holtby, and the Penguins had a 2-1 lead they would hold into the break.

Washington tied up the game on a very fluky tally, as Carlson was attempting to dump into the Penguins zone for a line change, but the puck hit a stantion near the faceoff circle and Vokoun, who went to play the puck behind the cage, was left in no-mans land as the puck rolled into the yawning net.

But Washington failed to build on the momentum of the tally and the ensuing power-play, and saw their chances for two points evaporate in short order thanks to a pair of goals Holtby would like to have back.

“We were playing good, answered back in the first right away, felt good about our game heading into the first intermission, we were are able to tie it up, a little bit of a lucky bounce – they happen,” Brouwer said. “We had a lot of good momentum, and is the case this season, we got scored on in bunches and can’t recover.”

Mike Riberio made the score 5-3 early in the third, as after a nice play by Alex Ovechkin to keep the puck in the zone during a power play, Riberio took a deflected Brouwer pass in front and beating Vokoun with the man-advantage.

Washington fell to 2-6-1 on the year – ironically, the same mark they held in the last 48-game schedule in 1994-95, although that team did eventually qualify for the playoffs. But the Caps will have to look to try and wrap up the three-game homestand with a win Tuesday against Toronto before a rematch with Pittsburgh looms Thursday.

Despite the rivalry, Backstrom said he was disappointed the Capitals lost the game.

“Right now, we don’t care who we play because we need points,” Backstrom said. “If you don’t get the points, doesn’t matter who we play.”

For now, the Capitals have to deal with how Sunday’s game came unraveled in just 37 seconds.

“We had all the momentum, the crowd was into it, the guys were into it, we felt good, and we got scored on,” Brouwer said. “Two quick goals and they scored a power-play goal after.”

“We let up a couple of easy goals, I think,” Backstrom said. “A couple of mistakes on our side.”

Washington Capitals trade rights to G Tomas Vokoun for 7th round pick in 2012 NHL Draft

The Washington Capitals announced this morning they traded the negotiating rights to goalie Tomas Vokoun to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a seventh round pick in the upcoming 2012 NHL Draft. The Penguins then almost immediately announce they signed the 37-year old goalie to a two-year contract. Reports have that contract worth $2 million per year.

Vokoun battled through an injury-plagued season for the Caps, playing in 48 games with a 25-17-2 record, 2.51 GAA and .917 SV%. His season ended following the March 29 game against Boston, where he played 18:25, trying to return from a groin injury. He left just before the end of the first period and did not play again for the Capitals.

Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last summer during the free agency period, Vokoun was supposed to be the veteran netminder the Caps needed to put them over the top. It didn’t happen that way. For his part, Vokoun saw the Caps as a springboard to his last big contract, and while a two-year deal gives him some stability, it will be interesting to see the playing split he gets with Marc-Andre Fleury already entrenched as the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh, despite a very rough playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers where Fleury posted some ridiculously ugly numbers (2-4-1, 4.63, .834).

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

GAME 47 RE-CAP: Caps lose nailbiter to Pens in overtime

It’s always an interesting affair when the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins face-off. The Pens came into this contest winners of five straight, while in the previous week the Caps had played in three consecutive 3-0 games, one up and two down. This one did not disappoint either, as another chapter in this fierce rivalry had a two-goal comeback and three lead changes, and 60 minutes still wasn’t enough to settle the matter.

Unfortunately for the Caps, Evgeny Malkin ended it in overtime, knocking in a hard bounce off the end boards into a wide-open net, giving the Penguins a 4-3 win.

The recent trends for both teams played out early, as the red-hot Penguins jumped all over the Caps, scoring twice in the first six minutes. With Dennis Wideman in the box for a cross-check, Kris Letang scored from the high slot on an uncontested shot. Just minutes later, Evgeny Malkin won an offensive zone draw right back to James Neal who whipped a wrist shot past Michal Neuvirth, who never saw the puck through a screen of bodies off the draw.

The Caps cut the lead in half playing four-on-four mid-way through the second period, as Dennis Wideman carried the puck below the goal line and found Brooks Laich camped out in the crease for his ninth goal of the season.

A few minutes later, the Caps broke up a Pens rush and made a real quick transition with the puck finally ending up on Mathieu Perreault’s stick. The diminutive center put a low shot on Marc-Andre Fleury, who gave up a big rebound, allowing Alexander Semin to bury it into a wide open net to knot things up.

The Caps proved in the third period that they can still be very dangerous on the rush. Coach Dale Hunter reunited Alexes Ovechkin and Semin and it provided dividends, as Semin hit Ovechkin in perfect stride on a two-on-one to break the tie, after Mathieu Perreault beat Brooks Orpik to a puck along the wall, drawing Orpik out of position.

Neal got his second of the game a couple of minutes later to tie it up again, sneaking one in short side on Neuvirth after a terrific job by Malkin gaining the zone and winning the puck in the corner from Roman Hamrlik.

Overtime was almost avoided, though, when a big blast by Troy Brouwer evaded Fleury with about thirty seconds left. But the hockey gods were not smiling on the Caps on the play, as the blast rang off the far post instead of hitting the net.

This one has intrigue before the puck even droppeed, as the media and fans found out as the Caps came out for pre-game warm-ups that Marcus Johansson would miss the contest with an illness, according to a team spokesperson. That necessitated a lineup change, and coach Dale Hunter responded by putting Mathieu Perreault on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.

Suspense. Back-and-forth action. Lead changes. Superstars performing to their level. Fights and penalties. Overtime. This one had it all. It seems like these games always do.

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