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Recap: Penalties Doom Capitals in 4-3 Loss to Penguins

After spending most of the second period navel gazing from the penalty box, the Caps made a game of it in the third period, twice getting within a goal, but that is as close as they would get.

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The Washington Capitals started slow, then fell victim to the undisciplined and unfocused play the Pittsburgh Penguins exhibited in the first three games of the season series between the teams.  When it was over, the Caps spent too much time in the penalty box and too much time trying to catch up, while the Pens exhibited an intensity and resolve the Caps did not match as they took the last game of he season series between the clubs in a 4-3 decision.

Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: They had their chances.  Joel Ward in particular, who had a breakaway and several point-blank chances.  Washington managed to hang around far longer than the penalties and the uneven play suggested they could.
  • Minus: Penalties.  Six power plays in the second period for the Penguins ruined whatever hope the Caps had to establish any even strength flow or persistent forechecking pressure they used so effectively in the first three games of the season series.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • What can you say about the first period?  There were 40 shot attempts, 14 shots on goal, three goals, three power plays (all for the Caps), and a bench brawl.  No...a "bench" brawl, as in "players wresting on and behind the Penguins' bench."  There was Blake Comeau putting Tom Wilson in a head lock, Michael Latta and Steve Downie going at it, Jason Chimera jabbing, Maxim Lapierre sneering.  It was, well, Rivalry Night.
  • The seeds of that kerfuffle might have started with Tom Wilson giving Evgeni Malkin a shove in the pre-game warm-up, but that seemed to awaken Malkin, who did not have a point in two meetings against the Caps this season.  Malkin got the primary assist on the game's first goal with a nice little drop pass into space for Patric Hornqvist, who snapped the biscuit past goalie Braden Holtby on the long side.  He also recorded assists on a power play goal by Sidney Crosby and a goal by Chris Kunitz.
  • The Caps went the first 7:59 without a shot on goal.  The Penguins went 11:07 in the first period without a shot on goal from the 7:26 mark until Brandon Sutter scored a shorthanded goal at the 18:23 mark.
  • John Carlson's goal in the last minute of the first period was his third goal in five games and his fifth in his last ten contests.
  • About those three power plays in the first period for the Caps.  They were hardly a clinic in power play management.  Entries were sloppy, passes were off the mark, not to mention slow to arrive, and the Caps managed only two shots in six minutes of power play time, one from Nicklas Backstrom and the other from Mike GreenAlex Ovechkin was wide left on several attempts from the left wing circle.  He did finally drive one home on a one-timer with the Caps a man up in the third period to make it 4-3.
  • Then there was the second period. The Caps took four minor penalties in a span of 6:38.  The Caps might have been lucky to get out of that mess with just one goal scored against, that by Crosby, his first point against the Caps this season.  Not that they were done.  By the time the horn sounded for the second intermission, the Caps had been whistled for seven minor penalties in the period and spent 10:32 killing penalties.  Washington had one even-strength shot on goal in the period.  That is not a typo.  They had more shorthanded shots on goal (2).
  • As for those shorthanded shots, the one by Joel Ward that did not go in loomed large.  The Penguins just lost him behind the play as he jumped on the ice on a change.  He led what was a two-on-none break with Brooks Laich, but it appeared Ward did not see Laich coming up on his left side.  Ward took the shot, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury snapped it out of the air with his glove, and perhaps the best scoring chance the Caps had all night went by the wayside.
  • The irrational exuberance of youth.  Tom Wilson had three minor penalties, Cameron Schilling had a pair among the nine penalties the Caps took in this game.
  • The third period started sluggishly, but Troy Brouwer provided a jolt when he whacked a rebound out of mid-air past Fleury to get the Caps to within a goal and the crowd back into the game.  It did not last long as youth reared its inexperienced head again for the Caps as Evgeny Kuznetsov had the puck stripped off his stick by Malkin then could not tie up Chris Kunitz on an ensuing rebound off the end boards as Kunitz made it 4-2.
  • It was not Braden Holtby's sharpest night of the season, but he was one of many of whom that could be said for the Caps.  Washington simply didn't match the push that the Penguins provided early, and by the time they did they had their continuity shredded with all the second period penalties.  They made a game of it in the third, and had they gotten a bounce in the last two minutes with an extra attacker they would have had at least a point they probably did not deserve.  As it was, this game was probably closer than it should have been given the nature of the intensity exhibited on each side, at least over the first 40 minutes.

And now, this...

Game Highlights: