Nothing (in the regular season, at least) much beats taking the bully’s lunch and eating it in front of his face the way the Caps did last night in beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-3, at Mellon Arena. What a send off… the last memory Penguins fans will have of a home game against the Caps at Mellon Arena (unless these teams meet in the post season) will be of trudging out of the arena, listening to the public address guy announcing, “Capitals goal scored by number eight, Alex Ovechkin, assist by Nicklas Backstrom. Alex Ovechkin, his 48th goal of the season, time of the goal, 19:59…”
And just in time, too. Caps fans were getting the vapors wondering when Ovechkin might break out of his slump (four goals in his previous 18 games). And he wasn’t the only one…
- Tomas Fleischmann, who had a single goal over a nine-game stretch, had one to give him two in his last three games.
- Mike Knuble had a goal to give him goals in consecutive games for the first time since the first two games of February.
- Matt Bradley had one to give him two in his last four games after going 25 games without one.
- Nicklas Backstrom had three helpers, giving him five in his last two games, which is more than he had in his last seven games combined. They also gave him a career best 67 assists.
- With this win, the Caps won all the games in the season series against the Penguins for the first time in franchise history. They were 3-0-1 last year and 6-0-1 in 1984-1985. That’s as close as they came until last night.
- In the battle of the double nickels… Jeff Schultz: two assists, a hit, two blocked shots and a plus-5. Sergei Gonchar: an assist, a giveaway, minus-1.
- Crosby gets a goal and two assist, Ovechkin gets a couple of goals. Crosby finished even, Ovechkin plus-1 (the empty netter being the difference). Both had seven shot attempts. These guys pretty much cancel one another out. But here is the difference – Penguin wingers: two points (both assists); Caps wingers (not including Ovechkin): four goals, three assists.
- Still, that's 7-3-10, plus-8 in four games against the Pens this year for Ovechkin.
- Matt Bradley, Professor Clutch. Each of his last two goals was the game-winner.
- Odd in a game featuring 35 hits by the Penguins that Brooks Orpik should get just one.
- What to make of Marc-Andre Fleury… with his performance last night he is 1-3-2, 4.57, .861 over the last two seasons. He didn’t get the loss last night, because coach Dan Bylsma mercifully yanked him 6:42 into the second period after Fleury allowed goals on the first two shots of the period for Washington, and Brent Johnson was tagged with the fourth, and game-winning goal.
- Getting goals 21 seconds, and 1:48 after Penguin scores stopped whatever momentum the Penguins derived from scores that might have been turning points.
- At times, Semyon Varlamov was very sharp, keenly anticipating where plays were going. But the Crosby and second Jordan Leopold goal were saves you’d have to have in a closer game.
- Shaone Morrison had a tough game last night with a minus-2, one of them courtesy of his tipping Jordan Leopold’s shot through the legs of Varlamov. Morrisonn is now minus-5 in his last six games.
- Tomas Fleischmann… three for 13 on draws? He might have the makings of a center as far as playmaking goes, but he’s 42.8 percent in the circle this season. Why that’s… well, it’s still better than Evgeni Malkin (40.8), who did not dress for this one. If those two faced off against one another, would the linesman have to toss them both because neither could win the draw? I’m getting this mental image of two guys wrestling around and poking their sticks, and the puck just lying on the red dot.
- On the other end, give credit to Jay Beagle, just called up from Hershey. He won seven of ten draws, and two of three in the defensive zone.
- One power play, one shot, one conversion, four seconds. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s eight power play opportunities in four games against the Penguins this year (one in each of the last two games). The Penguins have had 19. And with all that, the Caps still have more power play goals than the Penguins in this season’s series (four to three).
- Can’t go without mentioning how sweet that pass was from Quintin Laing from the corner to Matt Bradley heading for the net. Just the way you would draw it up.
- The Penguins are a formidable team at home, and that makes the fact that the Caps played the last two-plus periods with only five defensemen noteworthy. John Erskine left in the first with a “lower body ailment,” which we’re guessing is different than a “lower body injury.” Groin flu?
In the end, it was a win. A nice win, even. You might even convince yourself that it was a “statement” win against a perennial tormentor. But the source of that torment is what is yet to come – the playoffs. If these teams do meet again, Bruce Boudreau is right…
"I think playoffs is a whole new ballgame. Everything gets ramped up and you forget about past everythings. I don't know if it is going to affect them. They are champions; they are Stanley Cup champions. It's nice that we did it and I'm glad we did it; but I don't think it will mean a hill of beans if we see them in the playoffs."
Still, Caps fans will smile a little more broadly this morning.