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Marc-Andre Fluery stayed hot to limit the League's highest-flying offense to one goal, and snapped the Caps' five game winning streak. Phil Kessel salted it away with a little help from Evgeni Malkin.
Here's Wednesday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Braden Holtby foiled many high-quality chances throughout this one, continuing to build on what's been a strong start to his season. The Braden Holtby of this year continues to resemble the Braden Holtby of last year, and the Braden Holtby of last year was a goaltender that gave you a chance on any given night.
- Minus: The quick-strike against goal from Beau Bennett, 26 seconds after Evgeny Kuznetsov broke the stalemate was all too reminiscent of those Adam Oates years.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- The demi-gods and titans of the top line appeared to have come down from Olympus to get their mere mortal on. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom seemed mamba-smooched all night, and Evgeny Kuznetsov was about the only bright point, continuing to bring a dynamism and purpose badly needed in sagging situations.
- Dmitry Orlov continues to prove that he belongs firmly in the NHL. Dima made several smart, decisive, rush-killing defensive plays in his own end, at kept the puck inside the blue line at the other end with a steady supply of big effort, acrobatic stretches that would make a contortionist blush.
- Braden Holtby is a stone-cold playboy. He saved 23 of 25 and kept the Capitals in a game that saw many opportunities for heaps and piles of opposing goals at once.
- Matt Niskanen looked like an itty baby giraffe at times. He fell down a number of times, flipping and flopping like a forlorn flounder. He also delivered many uh-oh passes directly to opponents in his own defensive end, which is befitting of a spy, but not an NHL defenseman.
- Jay Beagle, like a working dog of good breeding, continues to do exactly what you ask of him. As a bottom-six forward, that job is to bring an energy and a disruptive pop that frustrates opponents' stars and defibrillates his teammates.
- If the NHL is a dog park, every other player in the league is a shih tzu and Tom Wilson is a pitbull-Minotaur mix. (He's a rescue). He's too skilled to deserve the pejorative moniker "enforcer," but maybe something like, "military police," or "nuclear deterrent."
- Chandler Stephenson had a rough start to the game, looking up at the NHL learning curve like Sisyphus considering the hill. He spent a lot of time on his butt, chasing the play, and generally looking like a middle-schooler at a high school party. He got better in the third period, though, moving the puck along the cycle on offense and not mucking things up on defense.
- Marc-Andre Fleury may not be a witch, but he sure dabbles in magic. There may be no goalie in the league better at making saves that he has no business whatsoever saving. He saved 34 of 35 shots and was the difference in this game, period. Avada kedavra!
- Sidney Crosby didn't record a point, so there's that.
- There was a lovely tribute to Eric Fehr on the jumbotron at Verizon Center tonight. It was mostly clips of the Winter Classic.
This was not a pretty loss. Good teams are supposed to beat bad teams, and while the Penguins have too much talent to be mistaken for a bad team, you hate to see the Capitals losing to their statistical inferiors. Pittsburgh is the Caps' primary rival, both divisionally and dogmatically. These two points would have been sweet. But as they say, "marathon and not a sprint" and et cetera et cetera. If the Caps can forget about Fleury, they can get back on track against Columbus on Friday.