Coming into Pittsburgh to face the Penguins for the second half of a home-and-home Washington needed to pick up two points (in any fashion possible) but were unable to put a number on the scoreboard against their Eastern Conference leading hosts - the Capitals fall in Pennsylvania at the hands of a Marc-Andre Fleury shutout. Jussi Jokinen's first period tally would be all the Penguins needed to beat Washington for their eighth straight victory against their Metropolitan Division rivals, including a season sweep this year.
Adam Oates decided to go with Jaroslav Halak despite the back-to-back games and was validated in that decision - the newest Washington goaltender made 32 strong saves on the road and kept the game entertaining. With only fifteen games left in the season the mathematical playoff window is shrinking with every passing night and nothing the Capitals are doing is getting them closer to that number eight seed.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Hard-nosed winger Jason Chimera had a strong road game, he brought his ability to bruise and combined it with three shots through the first two periods of a big road game to set the tone. He wouldn't add any other chances but ended the night with five hits that put a bit of uneasy into the Penguins defensemen.
- Jussi Jokinen’s 17th on the year came courtesy of a Matt Niskanen point shot, the winger touching the puck home with his forehand to Halak’s left and putting the home team up before the first intermission. The sequence was started by Evgeni Malkin and his strong stop along the right halfwall that created some separation and space in the slot.
- Simon Despres almost pinched Connor Carrick into two pieces at Washington’s offensive blue line - the Penguins’ young defenseman is listed at six-foot-four inches and 215 lbs - but was less than a half step late in closing his gap against the young (and much smaller) Capitals rookie. Thankful, that mistiming.
- Fleury’s right foot save on Kuznetsov halfway through the game was one for the highlight reel - with the Penguins goaltender down after making a save against a Karl Alzner shot the newest Washington forward unfortunately only put it shin high. It might’ve been heading for the nearside post but Fleury’s right foot kept it from ricocheting off the post and going in. Hopefully the kid has already shrugged it off.
- Really strong sell from Olli Maatta while on the penalty kill (Washington's first power play) and chasing down Nicklas Backstrom into the corner to draw a minor for High Sticking. That's a bit too much of making a call based on a reaction - I thought all infractions had to be observed - for me, but I'm probably just a Caps fan.
- Second game in a row that saw Mike Green chasing an opposing forward back towards his own net, but unlike Chris Kunitz last night this chance was thwarted by the sharp Halak. Yes he successfully caught Kunitz in a similar chase later in the period but it is these repeated mistakes that forces one to wonder about the man chosen to run the group.
- Good on Jay Beagle taking Fleury to task with a couple whacks to ensure the goalkeeper had complete control of the puck in the third period. With the road team's energy slipping it was good to see a bit of (offensive) nasty come out of the frustrated forward.
- Fleury's second period save was only as good as Halak's own on Sidney Crosby late in the third. It was Halak's anticipating movements that got his toe into position to make a save against the sniper when the nearside of the net was open. It should've been a save that lifted the Capitals energy levels and offensive attack but...
- The gold medal winner would make amends less than four minutes later when he called his own number right on a two-on-one down the right wing and fired a quick snapshot into the far side of Halak's cage. With less than six minutes to play and the Consol Energy Center roaring back to life it proved to be too much for this bunch to overcome.
It's another game where the offense couldn't create enough goals to cover their goalie and defensemen when the high shot volume against proved fatal - and considering Halak's strong performance in enemy territory that's a shame. Two goals against prevent Washington from picking up two points in game number two of these Metropolitan back-to-backs and inspire no confidence in the team moving forward. The Capitals have a sinking Vancouver Canucks team up next after two nights of rest and I don't think I've ever been this excited to have a game against John Tortorella in my life.