Ah, The Igloo - the Caps' newfound home away from home. Too bad the Pens are moving out just as the Caps are taking their shoes off and putting their feet up on the coffee table, eh? Oh well. We'll just have to savor next year's two meetings, I suppose.
All kidding aside, the Caps won their third straight game in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1985 on the strength of a pair of goals and a primary helper on the game-winner from the League's reigning (and leader at the turn this season) Most Valuable Player, but really, it was a total team effort*. A few thoughts on the game:
- First and foremost, scary moment when Rob Scuderi took a puck in the head off a Mike Green shot. Hopefully he's alright (same goes for the other Penguin that missed the end of the game), and the Pens definitely missed him the rest of the way.
- The Caps weathered a first period storm (at least three odd-man rushes against, a full two-minute 5-on-3 killed and just one goal allowed) and absolutely dominated the final forty minutes, outshooting the Pens 30-18 and outscoring them 6-2.
- More on the overall dominance - the Caps owned the game at even strength, outshooting Pitt 29-16, and the boys in white had 81 total shots that went on goal, missed the net or were blocked/attempted to only 57 such shots for their hosts. That speaks to a big territorial advantage, and the Corsi ratings for the game reflect that as well.
- Hey, what do you know - splitting up the Alexes and having two scoring lines worked.
- This bullet is dedicated to Tomas Fleischmann, who I continue to be happy to have been wrong about. He was fantastic.
- One area in which the Caps struggled was in the dot. Winning a road game in which you win only 42% of the game's faceoffs (surprising, given the teams' rankings in that stat) is certainly doing it the hard way, but after that first period, the draws were pretty even.
- To that last point, the two Swedes each won 25% of their draws, which is wholly unacceptable.
- Seriously. Anyone who still thinks Evgeni Malkin is the League's MVP at this point is loopy (love ya, Lyle, but you're wrong here). Nice goal, to be sure. Not so nice minus-3 (and he had his head on a swivel all night to make sure he knew where the Number Eight train was at all times).
- John Erskine's concussion was a blessing in (an assuredly unpleasant) disguise, as he has come back playing some of his best hockey that I can remember. We sometimes forget how much of a toll his style of play takes on the body - even when he's not injured, Big John is usually hurting, but not right now, thanks to the layoff.
- Also getting back to speed, Sergei Fedorov. Even though he was the Caps' only Russian not to score a goal, his pass on Alex Semin's tally was magnificent and he was stronger on his skates than he has been in weeks upon weeks. He's still not 100% - his three seconds of short-handed time confirms that - but he's getting closer.
- Sidney "I finish my hits all the time" Crosby... didn't have a single one credited to him last night.
- Jose Theodore had a pretty strong game and made some big saves. It was a game for him to step up and be "the guy," and he did.
- Get well soon, Shaone Morrisonn (and Tom Poti) - Bryan Helmer isn't very good.
- Matt Cooke is a clown. He was on the ice for the first four Caps goals and took a bad penalty defending a teammate who was hit cleanly. I don't miss him. You?
- The power play is still not quite right, but it clicked twice, so that's hard to argue with.
- Brooks Laich had many a glorious scoring opportunity but never could quite finish. He did, however, pick up his 100th career point on the first Alex Ovechkin goal, and led the entire team with 5:17 of shorthanded ice time.
- A big plus-three and a 190-foot goal for Jeff Schultz (an even longer shorty than Boyd Gordon - who was missed - had earlier in the year). Good on him, as he had a good game.
- Comcast's Lisa Hillary had a bizarre ice level report during the game in which she said that Chris Clark's healthy scratch had nothing to do with his play of late. I know that Flyers owner Ed Snider is the chairman of Comcast, but that doesn't mean their viewers are stupid.
And so the Caps return home to face the one team in the Conference that is ahead of them in the standings on Saturday, and they do so with a big road win over a secondary rival rather than riding a four-game losing streak, and that difference is night and day.
* "Total team effort" does not apply to Michael Nylander or Eric Fehr.