March of the Penguins

Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Michal Neuvirth

The Capitals came into Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh hoping to end a two game skid. From the looks of the first period, they appeared to be on their way. The second period, however, was a completely different story and it proved to be their nemesis once again as the Washington Capitals dropped their third straight, losing 5-2. It was an encouraging start for the Capitals. They forced countless turnovers in the Pittsburgh defensive zone, while playing stifling defense themselves. They limited the Penguins to only five shots on goal while capitalizing on one of their first. A good screen by Wojtek Wolski caused Marc-Andre Fluery to struggle seeing a Tomas Kundratek slap shot and, after losing his mask, was unable to corral the rebound. Instead, Mike Ribiero, a lone bright spot for the Caps this season, was able to bang home the rebound into the empty net. Alex Ovechkin also seemed to find himself in a groove early on. He was able to get multiple shots on goal, and was also seen throwing his body around.

Despite what the scoresheet reads, the second period started well for Washington. It was played much like the first 20 minutes of the game. Both teams traded scoring chances, but it was ultimately an interference penalty on Karl Alzner that nicked the  Caps for the Penguins’ first goal of the game. Only 10 seconds into the Pittsburgh power play, Evgeni Malkin beat Michal Neuvirth with a beautiful wrist shot and evened the score 1-1.  After cracking Neuvirth, the onslaught was on for the Penguins. Pascel Dupuis scored on a backhander that eked between Neuvirth’s legs, leading to Adam Oates making his first goaltender switch of the season. Braden Holtby entered the game for the first time since being lit up by these same Penguins for six goals on Super Bowl Sunday. Despite a strong start, the game boasted an equally similar showing to that of last weekend’s. James Neal snuck a backhander beneath a sprawling Holtby on an ensuing power play, and a quick snap shot by ex-Cap Matt Cooke found its way past Holtby’s catching glove 11 seconds later to make the score 4-1. The lead was stretched to 5-1 after Sidney Crosby redirected a puck into the net, and the Capitals found themselves giving up 3 goals in last five minutes of the second period. It was the first time since a tilt against the Buffalo Sabres on December 26, 2006 that the Capitals surrendered five goals in a single period.

In the third, Alex Ovechkin was able to narrow the lead to 5-2 as he struck with a nasty wrist shot on the power play, but ultimately, the five goal period by the Penguins was too much to overcome. The Caps finished the game going 2-5  on the penalty kill, while going 1-3 on the power play. It was a night that the Capitals would like to soon forget, but unfortunately, these games have become all too familiar for this reeling Washington team. They have now been outscored 19-6 in the second period alone, and Thursday night was no different. With the season now just under a quarter finished, this Capitals team finds themselves asking more questions then when they came into the season. What, and who will be the answer in goal for this team? Will Nicklas Backstrom ever emerge from his ever-growing slump? Is Mike Ribiero the only consistent offensive threat present? Is it time to start thinking about massive personnel changes? This is saying a lot, considering they had injuries, a new coach, and a system change coming in. These are all things to ponder as the season grows later by the day, and the Caps may not like the answers that they find.


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Filed under Crashing The Net, The D and C DC Sports Podcast

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