There has been plenty of pain and misery for Washington Capitals fans in the past 18 years, and most of it has come from playoff games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Still, in the long, sordid history for the Capitals when it comes to playing the Penguins, Game 5 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series might be remembered as the worst.
- The Capitals led going into the third period
- Alex Ovechkin, the guy who was supposed to single-handedly be able to erase the Penguins spell had two goals, including the one to send Saturday night’s contest into overtime with a little more than four minutes to play after the team had coughed up the lead
- David Steckel just missed an open net in the overtime period, moments after rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov had snuffed out an attempt by Sidney Crosby after he got behind the defence
- Then the dagger – Tom Poti, diving headfirst to erase a passing lane for Evgeni Malkin, knocks the Russian’s pass attempt between his goaltender’s legs for the game-ending tally
Gonchar a no-go
Pittsburgh’s No. 1 defenceman, Sergei Gonchar, was out of the lineup after his knee-on-knee collision with Ovechkin in Game 4. Alex Goligoski was recalled from the American Hockey League and was in the lineup. He only logged 9:32 of ice time because the Penguins dressed seven defencemen
Gonchar was at Verizon Center Saturday and was seen leaving the arena after the game walking without a limp.
“He’s not playing, but he’s right there with us,” Crosby said. “We’d love to have him out there, but I think the best way we can make him feel better is by putting a good, solid effort out there and winning hockey games. If anything, that is one way we can ease his pain.”
No punishment for Oveckhin
Ovechkin was neither fined nor suspended for the hit on Gonchar. There was, however, plenty of discussion about the collision on the day after Game 4.
"I watched the video 10 times this [Saturday] morning, and [Ovechkin] goes in there and his right leg is firmly on the ice,” Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. “Which means he can't move, he can't shift it out. And he lunges with the shoulder and tries to hit him, and Gonchar sidesteps the hit. If he just stays in the play and takes the hit, maybe the knee injury doesn't happen. He tried to bail out on it."
Defenceman Brooks Orpik was the most outspoken of the Penguins about the hit and Ovechkin’s tactics in general after Game 4. Orpik and Ovechkin had a confrontation after the horn sounded to end the first period Saturday night, and both were assessed roughing penalties during the fracas.
Ovechkin then scored his first goal in the second period with Orpik trying to defend him, and they came face-to-face and exchanged words as Ovechkin was finishing his patented kiss-and-point-to-the-sky celebration.
"I don't care what he says," Ovechkin said in response to Orpik’s claim that he targets Russians.
Crosby vs. Ovechkin
Round 5 of the personal battle between the two superstars goes to Ovechkin, who had two goals and a secondary assist. Crosby hit the left elbow of the goal with a shot, and could have ended the game 30 seconds into overtime had he been able to get a shot off, but he finished the game pointless and as a minus-2.
Ovechkin now has seven goals in the series and 10 this post-season, which is one more than Crosby and Carolina’s Eric Staal for the league lead. Ovechkin’s three-point night also gave him 17 this post-season, one more than Crosby for the NHL lead. He also tied the Capitals team record for most points in one playoff year.
Malkin had two points in the game, and has been a dominant player in two of the past three games after being average in the first two. Meanwhile, the guy who was supposed to make it a two-on-two fight by supporting Ovechkin – Alexander Semin – has not scored a goal in the series, and other than a nifty slap pass during a five-on-three, has had little impact on the series.
Pittsburgh’s third line of Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke scored two of the team’s four goals and generally dominated possession of the puck when they were on the ice. Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal and 10 shots on net.
Nicklas Backstrom had a two-point night for the Capitals, and was their best skater. His setup for Ovechkin was as smooth and perfect as can be, and his power-play goal gave the team its first lead. He and Ovechkin have 10 of the team’s 15 goals in the series, and Backstrom is second in the league with 11 assists.
The Penguins dressed seven defencemen and double-shifted both Crosby and Malkin on the fourth line. Meanwhile, the Capitals overhauled their forward lines. Backstrom and Ovechkin were broken up in the first round, but were back together again for the first time in the series.
Fedorov moved to defence for a couple of shifts in the third period after the Capitals fell behind 3-2.
- Penguins' Talbot cements reputation as big-game player
- Saturday, June 13, 2009
- Red Wings too late in arriving in Game 7
- Saturday, June 13, 2009
- Penguins sticking to regular routines
- Friday, June 12, 2009
- Babcock low-key all the way for Game 7
- Friday, June 12, 2009
- Rafalski shares Game 7 Stanley Cup wisdom
- Thursday, June 11, 2009
- Stanley Cup Final (44)
- DET vs. PIT (44)
- Conference Finals (28)
- Conference Semifinals (68)
- Conference Quarter-finals (130)
- Teams (28)
- Anaheim Ducks (35)
- Boston Bruins (35)
- Calgary Flames (17)
- Carolina Hurricanes (57)
- Chicago Blackhawks (48)
- Columbus Blue Jackets (13)
- Detroit Red Wings (83)
- Montreal Canadiens (14)
- New Jersey Devils (24)
- New York Rangers (12)
- Philadelphia Flyers (16)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (78)
- San Jose Sharks (17)
- St. Louis Blues (11)
- Vancouver Canucks (27)
- Washington Capitals (26)