Capitals 6 – Penguins 3
OK, so what does it mean? It means that Caps Nation is feeling really good with itself tonight. The beer tastes a little better, the air smells a little fresher, and the sun shines a little brighter.
For two teams that possess high end skill sets, this was as dominating as it gets in the regular season. It is the third time in the last four regular season games that the Caps have skated off from a contest with the Penguins with a three-goal win, twice on Mellon Arena ice.
And although the story line will probably emphasize that Alex Ovechkin outdueled Sidney Crosby on this night, the story was that the Caps employed a balanced attack and smart play late to secure the win. Balance, you say? Well, if 11 players getting points is balance, the Caps had balanced scoring.
On the other hand, the Penguins were essentially a one-line team tonight. Sidney Crosby got a gift goal when Jose Theodore tried to play the puck and lost it in his skates, but other than that was largely a non-entity – the goal, minus-1, 33 percent on 30 (30?!) draws. It was Ruslan Fedotenko (who should have had the third star of the game), Evgeni Malkin (who was named the third star), and… well, not much else. Those two assisted on all three Penguin goals. The Pens got points from only three other players – the goal scorers (Crosby, Kris Letang, and Nick Johnson, getting his first NHL goal in his first NHL game).
-- Shaone Morrisonn recorded his first multi-point game (two assists) since March 19, 2009 – two assists in a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay. Add to that he was a plus-3, had two blocked shots, two hits, and no turnovers, and he had a nice night in 20 minutes of ice time.
-- Power play… two opportunities, two shots, two goals, a total of 1:03. You’ll see a lot of games before you see that kind of efficiency on the power play.
-- On the other side of that equation, holding Sidney Crosby without a shot on four power plays speaks to a fine penalty killing effort – the Pens were 0-for-4.
-- We said that if the Caps allowed something north of 35 shots on goal, it probably wouldn’t end well for the Caps. Jose Theodore, thanks for proving us wrong. Theodore saved 35 of 38 shots, and if you discount the odd circumstances surrounding the first Penguin goal, he had a whale of a night… again.
-- The Penguins outhit the Caps, 41-24? Home-town scoring, that.
-- Like that pass from Alexander Semin to spring Tomas Fleischmann in alone on Brent Johnson for a goal?
-- What’s with Evgeni Malkin? Yeah, he had three assists, but he looked like he was skating at 75-percent speed. We don’t see Malkin enough to think this is a pattern, but he didn’t look nearly ready for this game tonight.
-- The Caps were credited with five turnovers (three giveaways, two Penguin takeaways). That, kids, is an obscenely low number. Local scoring?
-- Brendan Morrrison… eight up and none down in the circle, an assist, and a couple of hits (I think Mario Lemieux was credited with three hits tonight).
-- Matt Bradley was the only Cap forward not to be credited with a shot tonight.
-- Tyler Sloan, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner – a combined total of 106 games of NHL experience – acquitted themselves pretty well. Alzner was the only one of that trio to be on the ice for any Pengins goals (he was on for two).
-- Alex Ovechkin came to play; he led all players in goals (two), shots (eight), shot attempts (12), hits (seven), tied for the most points (three), was plus-2 (to extend his league lead).
-- Eric Godard… one shift. One freakin’ shift? Why bother dressing him?
-- Four goals in 23 minutes after the Pens took a 3-2 lead, the first three of them coming in six minutes of running game time. Yes, the Caps can be fairly described as “explosive.”
-- At 32-12-6, this is the fastest the Caps have ever gotten to 20 games over .500 (50 games). They are on a 115-point pace.
-- This was only the 19th time in 50 games that the Caps surrendered the first goal, but they are now 11-6-2 when they do. The Caps are the only team in the NHL with a winning record when giving up the first goal.
-- Jose Theodore has now won his last five decisions. He is within one of his longest winning streak as a Cap – six wins from December 23 – January 6 in the 2008-2009 season.
-- In those five decisions, Theodore has saved 152 of 161 shots (.944).
OK, it’s always satisfying to see the Caps beat the Penguins. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are three more regular season games and perhaps a playoff series to work through with that team. But this was nice. The Caps took a punch in the nose early on an odd play, came back, then came back again after the Penguins took their second lead of the game. Even if this was a game where neither team fielded its best complement of players (the Pens missing Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Kunitz; the Caps missing Mike Green and, if you think he’s the number one goalie at the moment, Semyon Varlamov), the Cap showed that at the very least, these teams are more or less equal. In fact, the Caps looked to have more and deeper firepower than the Penguins, who looked very ordinary at forward past Crosby and Malkin, and looked a bit overmatched on their blue line.
The Caps now have the longest active winning streak in the league (five games, tied with Ottawa) as they head home to host Phoenix. That game will take care of itself. For now, enjoy this one. You earned it, boys.