The Capitals will snap out of this stretch one of these days. I say that because I have been impressed by their work ethic the past two nights. I am sure that everyonefans, players, and coaches alikehas had enough of this losing spell. Losing at home is something that is foreign to the Caps; losing three straight at home is the pits.
The first 10 minutes of this game were played at a playoff pace and with postseason intensity. You come to expect that all the time when the Penguins meet the Caps. The home team was really amped up for this one, you could tell by the rapidly increasing hit totals in the first period. Alex Ovechkin would land 10 hits before the night was through, and the Capitals would dole out a season-high 43 body checks; that is promising!
Falling behind 1-0 is troubling, and it happened again tonight. Since the Caps are mired in a collective scoring slump, playing without the lead is a bad way to go.
The Penguins grabbed the early advantage thanks to an unlikely source. Hard-nosed winger Aaron Asham found Craig Adams with a slick cross-crease pass for the opening tally. There was little Caps netminder Tomas Vokoun could do to prevent Adams from stashing his 2nd goal of the year.
Six seconds later Asham was called onto the carpet by John Erskine, who had payback in mind. It was Asham who leveled Jay Beagle with a right-cross back in October, and then made a few unsportsmanlike gestures which mocked Beagle while he lay bleeding on the ice.
Erskine and Asham engaged in a very good bout, with several vicious rights exchanged.
Asham has been around the block, he knew that someone would be asking him to dance tonight, and he stood toe-to-toe with Erskine, who won the fight with a late flurry. Caps fans know that Erskine is a gamer and he stood up for his injured teammate in a very big way.
The Caps would crack through Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period. After putting just four shots on him in the opening frame, they managed to get 11 through to him in the second.
One was an exquisite backhander from Jason Chimera. The Caps leading goal-scorer worked his way out from the goal-line, gave himself just enough shooting space and snapped the backhand over the glove of Fleury in a split second. It was as nice a backhand finish as you are going to see.
With the score tied at 1-1 after two periods, the stage was set for the usual Caps Pens dramatics. Washington had not lost here to Pittsburgh in regulation, in the regular season, since March of 2008.
Despite an enormous advantage in face-off supremacy this evening (Caps won 69 for the game), the hosts would barely bother Fleury in the third. They mustered only two shots for a total of 17 for the game, which equaled a season-low here against New Jersey.
The game-winner would come from Penguins winger Chris Kunitz at 2:36 of the final frame.
It was a broken play, one that did not appear threatening, until Erskine lost his balance and Kunitz had shooting space. His wrist shot elevated quickly and beat Vokoun between his blocker-side armpit and his body. Once he heard the puck land behind him, Vokoun snapped his head around and was stunned to see the disc in the net. Goalies at this level hate to give up any type of goals, but they have a special dislike for shots that squirt through them, and this one falls in that unfortunate category.
Still though, with 17 minutes to go and just a one-goal deficit, the Caps were stifled by the Pens. As of now, their offensive game is nowhere near where it was or where it should be.
Hopefully, they find it in time to face Ottawa here on Saturday.
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