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Sunday Roundup/Pens 2, Caps 1

[AP Recap - Boxscore - Super Stats]

If it wasn't for the "Let's Go Pen-guins" cheers still reverberating in my head, I think I'd be pretty comfortable with last night's game. The effort was fantastic (kudos to Glen Hanlon for readying the troops), Boyd Gordon did a sensational job on what's his name, and the Caps were the more physical team by miles. Frankly, if it wasn't for Marc-Andre Fleury, the Caps win last night's game.

Of course, that's a big "if" (recall my feelings on "ifs") , and at the end of the night, the Caps lost their fourth straight game to fall under .500 for the first time this season. Some more thoughts on the game:
  • As brilliant as Brent Johnson was - and he was brilliant - I'm sure he'd like the game-winner back.
  • Did anyone catch Donald Brashear's nifty stick-handling in the first period? Maybe that rush was the reason he forgot how to fight for the first three-quarters of his bout with Georges Laraque. Unluckily for Gorgeous George, Donny remembered how to fight before it was too late.
  • Asking your penalty killers to do their job four times in a period is a tall order, and in last night's second period the man-down unit failed on that fourth kill.
  • We've already discussed Joe Motzko a bit (Tarik says it's just a paper transaction, though, so don't get too excited), so I won't do so again here other than to once again question why he led the team in power play ice time but Mike Green could barely get a sniff with the extra man.
  • Alex Ovechkin continues his great all-around play, registering eight shots on goal, five hits, two takeaways, no giveaways and a blocked shot.
  • Gordon and David Steckel combined to win 18 of their 32 faceoffs (56%). I got a chance to ask Hanlon about how important it was to get Gordo back in the lineup (at about 5:30 of his presser):
  • Tomas Fleischmann has had his two best games of the season playing with the Swedes instead of the Russians. Coincidence? Probably not. One gets the feeling that he was intimidated playing on the Ovechkin line because everyone knows who's supposed to get the puck on that line. Playing with the Swedes, however, more is expected of him as a finisher, and he's not afraid to shoot when he's got the puck on his stick. When Alex Semin comes back, I wouldn't be shocked to see a little shuffling that splits the Swedes up with each centering one of the top two lines and Viktor Kozlov and Flash filling the top two right wing spots.
  • Tom Poti actually had four shots on goal last night (and attempted another two), but I'll repeat it until I'm blue in the face - he needs to shoot more on the power play to establish the threat of a shot which will, in turn, open up more down low. You can talk all you want about getting a Tomas Holmstrom-type in front of the net, but if shots aren't coming from the point, the traffic in front is somewhat wasted. At least when Brian Pothier is back there, he's not afraid to tee it up (and he was rewarded last night with the Caps only goal - a power play blast from the point).
  • If I hadn't sworn off the use of the term "snake-bitten," I think Chris Clark, Matt Pettinger and Nicklas Backstrom would all be worthy of the moniker.
  • Speaking of Backstrom, the kid is simply a brilliant hockey player. His "hockey smarts" are off the chart, and his skill is right there too. And he's only played seven games in North America.
  • Did Evgeni Malkin play last night?
  • Oh, and the White Out? Not so much.
Now it's back to the Southeast Division for the Caps after an unfriendly run through 60% of the Atlantic and a brief run-in with (run-over by?) a Northeast team. If they can play like they did last night, they'll leave Wednesday night's game against Tampa two points richer.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

Michal Neuvirth was apparently sharp in victory last night for Plymouth. For the season, he's now 2-3-1 with a 2.99 goals against average and an incredibly impressive .924 save percentage (good enough for fourth in the OHL).... Ben Clymer scored twice for Hershey last night in their first win of the season.... Lastly, I want to take a moment to bid a fond farewell to OFB's Empty Maybe, who is hanging up the keyboard. The blogosphere - especially here in D.C. - is weaker today for his absence. Hope to see you around in meatspace soon, Empty.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Jarome Iginla (Game-winning goal, 2A, +1, 6 SOG)
  • Ross: Jason Williams (4 points)
  • Norris: Roman Hamrlik (3A, +1, 3 blocked shots)
  • Vezina: Manny Fernandez (26-save shootout shutout win)
  • Richard: Mats Sundin, Vaclav Prospal, Simon Gagne, Kirk Maltby (2G each)
  • Calder: Josh Harding (W, 33 saves on 34 shots against)
  • Aiken: Andrew Raycroft (L, 5 goals allowed on 38 shots against, including 4 goals allowed on 15 shots in the third period)