WASHINGTON – Jason Chimera broke double digits in goals with his tenth, but it was not enough and the Capitals continued their free fall in the Eastern Conference standings with a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. Washington was totally shut down by the Penguins’ suffocating defensive system and Alex Ovechkin was held pointless again. Ho-hum.
The game got off to a high-energy, spirited start, with both teams coming out hard, attempting to set the tone of a physical game. But the Penguins, as many could have predicted, were the first team to strike after the Caps were thoroughly outworked in their own zone, as Craig Adams finished a nice pass from behind the net to put Pittsburgh up 1-0 after five minutes. The Pens continued to dominate as early part of the period wore on, and earned a power play at the midway mark when Cody Eakin was sent off for high sticking. Washington killed the penalty, and were able to use their successful shorthanded play to generate some turnovers, but completely lacked finish as they tried to equalize. The period closed with the Penguins ahead 1-0.
The hosts came out harder in the second period, forechecking well and holding the Pens in their zone for good stretches of time. Washington was able to tie it up less than two minutes into the period, as Jason Chimera walked out from the corner, put a great move on a defender, and backhanded the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder from in tight. The Caps continued to pressure and got a few good chances, none better than a one-time opportunity at a wide open net by Nicklas Backstrom that Fleury somehow got with the thin part of his stick while coming across the face of goal.
Washington’s momentum was killed, however, when Alex Ovechkin was called for interference a little past the 5:30 mark of the period. DC killed the penalty with authority, and picked up back where they left off in terms of pressuring Fleury, but could not get another one past the netminder. With about eight minutes left, the Caps were given a power play off a Jordan Staal charge, but again could not do anything with it as their power play woes continued. They were granted another soon after the Pens killed it off, but couldn’t even set it up in the offensive zone and failed to covert, again. They paid for it 52 seconds later when Karl Alzner was called for a hold. But the Caps killed off the early part of the penalty, and the score remained 1-1 after 2.
On the penalty kill to begin the third period, Washington was able to kill it off, but conceded the go ahead goal in short order anyway. Chris Kunitz outworked the entire team to get to the puck, beat John Erskine, and wristed a shot past Vokoun, one the goaltender would certainly like to have back. Pittsburgh kept coming and Vokoun saved the game from being put away with a great diving save on Sidney Crosby less than 90 seconds later. The Pens did not let up as the middle stages of the period approached, skating the Caps into the ground, but the home side would not yield, desperately trying to draw even once more.
Inside of eight minutes remaining, the Caps really tried to amp up the pressure, looking for the tying goal inside their home barn. But the Penguins’ defensive system continued to suffocate them, and DC had little chance to get the puck into the zone and establish a sustained attack. Even with Vokoun pulled, the Caps could not get a shot off and lost 2-1.
Pathetic performance. Now 0-2 under Dale Hunter and two shots in the third period. TWO SHOTS IN THE THIRD PERIOD. While down a goal for almost the entire frame. That’s all you need to know at this point.
Tomas Vokoun played well at times, but also let in a game winning goal that would have been stopped by a sheet of glass. Then, he said postgame, “it’s hard to win with one goal.” Cool, bro. Maybe don’t let in soft GWG’s from time to time, especially two games in a row?
The Caps will practice Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex before they host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Can’t wait…