Capitals overcome 2 deficits to win
Sidney Crosby can't direct the puck into the net against Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore in the first period.
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The Penguins did not play a perfect game last night.
Not all that close, actually.
When the coaches break down the video of the Penguins' 6-3 loss to Washington at Mellon Arena, they won't have to resort to a frame-by-frame assessment to find mistakes their players made, to turn up lapses and letdowns that contributed to this defeat.
But while there is much the Penguins could have done better -- forcing the Capitals to invest more than 62 seconds of power-play time into scoring a couple of goals is at the top of that list -- they hardly self-destructed, either.
And that might be the Penguins' greatest cause for concern.
Their epic seven-game playoff series with the Capitals last spring showed them what a terrific team the Capitals can be; Washington's performance last night proved that, if anything, the Capitals might be even more dangerous now.
"They're not first in the [Eastern Conference] for nothing," center Sidney Crosby said. "They're playing good hockey."
The Capitals are, to be sure, the most opportunistic team in the league, with a quick-strike capability that is unmatched. Make a mistake, and there's a reasonably good chance that your goaltender will be fishing the puck out of his net in a matter of seconds.
"They're really dangerous," Crosby said. "They make the most of their opportunities, and have a lot of different guys they can look to."
The guy the Capitals look to most, of course, is left winger Alex Ovechkin, who scored two goals and set up another one. And who clearly wasn't troubled by the hostile reception he got from the Mellon Arena crowd.
"It's great," Ovechkin said. "I think the fans boo me because I have a good time."
Much of the pregame focus was on Ovechkin, Crosby and Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, and all made it onto the score sheet. Crosby scored the Penguins' first goal, while Malkin assisted on all three.
The most obvious difference between the teams was on the power play. The Capitals scored on both of their chances, while the Penguins were 0 for 4, although they did get a goal one second after one of those chances expired.
"The [penalty-killing] has to do a little better job than that," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Show a little more desperation."
The Penguins played without injured forwards Pascal Dupuis and Max Talbot and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, while the Capitals scratched defenseman Mike Green because of an unspecified injury.
Dupuis and Talbot were replaced by Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson, who were recalled from the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead at 4:22 of the first period, after Capitals goalie Jose Theodore committed a puck-handling blunder that made a Crosby tap-in possible.
Mike Knuble pulled Washington even just over two minutes later. Ovechkin made the goal possible by skating around defenseman Kris Letang on the left side, then putting a shot off goalie Brent Johnson's chest, creating the rebound that Knuble knocked into the net.
The Penguins were victimized by a bad bounce at 2:22 of the second period, when Eric Fehr's centering pass from behind the goal line hit Orpik's stick and sailed past Johnson, but Nick Johnson got his first NHL goal 28 seconds later to pull the Penguins even.
Letang put them back in front at 10:46, when he got a pass from Ruslan Fedotenko and beat Theodore from above the left hash for his third of the season, but that was the final high point for the Penguins.
Washington, which has the NHL's top-rated power play, didn't get its first chance with the extra man until Letang was sent off for holding at 15:49, but needed just 36 seconds to capitalize on it.
Ovechkin got the goal, beating Brent Johnson with a wrist shot from high in the slot while Knuble was setting a screen.
Tomas Fleischmann got the winner at 2:32 of the third period, when he got behind the Penguins' defense and pulled in a long lead pass from Semin before beating Johnson on a breakaway.
"That breakaway goal was a big turning point," Orpik said.
Nicklas Backstrom added an insurance goal during a power play 33 seconds later and Ovechkin scored into an empty net at 19:34.
"We just need to do better," Fedotenko said. "I felt like they played well and, at certain times, we played well. It was just a good matchup."
First Published January 22, 2010 12:00 am