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Recap - Penguins 5, Capitals 3

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[AP Recap - Game Summary - Event Summary - Postgame]

Question of the day: what's the point in complaining about the power-play imbalance in a series if your team is only going to get one shot on goal in just over seven minutes of game time playing a man up?

On a night when their rookie goalie was shaky and the team had numerous chances to pick him up and bail him out - the way he has for them so many times already this spring, including in Game 3 of this series - the Caps couldn't get it done, and so they head back to D.C. for the first game of a best-of-three series that gets underway tonight.

A few thoughts on the game:

  • There's no sugarcoating it - Simeon Varlamov was not good. He made a few outstanding saves as he likely will every night he plays simply because of his fantastic athleticism, but he allowed arguably three soft goals (Sergei Gonchar's, Ruslan Fedotenko's and Max Talbot's) and looked both mentally and physically fatigued (perhaps unsurprisingly). Varly got little help from his defensemen on the Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby tallies, but he was not good enough between the pipes and did not give his team a chance to win on this night. On the plus side, the only other time in his NHL career that he has given up more than four goals in a game, he rebounded by allowing just five goals in his next five outings, but none of those came without a day off between starts.
  • We'll get this out of the way early - the way NHL referees call games, Alex Ovechkin was lucky to get away with a two-minute minor for tripping Gonchar. One of the things that makes AO such a devastating hitter (and a clean hitter at that) is that he hits with his entire body, and when someone ducks part (but not all) of one of his railroadings, you get what happened to Gonchar - an unfortunate hockey play. If it happened to a Cap, I'd likely be less forgiving, but that's the nature of partisan fanhood and it's unlikely anyone's mind is going to be changed by discussing it much further. Let's just hope Gonch is ok.
  • Whether related or not, a remorseful Ovechkin wasn't himself the rest of the night. Two shots on goal? That's it?
  • For the briefest of moments (right before Chris Clark atoned for his first period penalty, which may not have been the best call, but a player can't give the refs the chance to make that call behind the play when his team just took a 1-0 lead, especially if he's wearing the "C"), we saw the Mike Green we all know and love - the dazzling stickhandler and skater. Unfortunately, we also saw the Green we've become more familiar with of late, as he failed to clear Sidney Crosby and/or the puck from the side of the crease just before Guerin scored.
  • Nice to see Evgeni Malkinvisible return for Game 4. Hopefully he'll make the trip to Washington.
  • Considering that Milan Jurcina's shorthanded goal came after Matt Bradley interfered with Kris Letang and as Brads interfered with Brooks Orpik and that AO only got those two minutes for his hit on Gonchar and that the Caps got away with slashing the stick out of Pens' hands (flippers?) at least twice (not that the calls were all going the Caps' way, of course), I'd like to think that we've heard the last griping about the officiating. But I doubt it.
  • Having John Erskine back was nice. Having him horribly misplay a 2-on-1 that ended up behind Varly was not.
  • Also not good? Alex Semin's performance. Float like a butterfly, sting like... eh, just float. And turn the puck over. And be minus-three on the night. But he and Nick Backstrom did ramp up their passing percentages with a nice game of pattycake on a power-play to end the second period.

We could go on and on breaking down last night's game, but won't. Last night is history and we're back to square one: tied in the series with home ice advantage; back at the Verizon Center where the Caps have won four straight games and will face a goalie who has an .885 save percentage in this series (and a 3-5-0/3.75/.872 line on the season against the caps) - which makes the single power-play shot on goal last night all the more maddening, but which gives plenty of reason for hope.

Seriously. Two words: butt goal.

Win one game. Do it four three two times.