-First things first, there were no updates on the health of Patric Hornqvist or Kris Letang. Hornqvist left the game after the first period and Letang left with approximately 2:30 remaining regulation. The Penguins have a practice tomorrow and presumably, some update on them will be available then.
-The Capitals beat the Penguins with defense.
-We'll repeat that. The Capitals beat the Penguins with defense.
-The Penguins weren't the only part of this rivalry to undergo a shift in philosophy this past offseason. The Capitals did that in a big way as well with the hire of Barry Trotz, a coach who stresses defensive discipline. While the results over the course of this season have been a mixed bag, tonight's game was a pretty stark departure from what we usually see with Penguins-Capitals games. Yeah, there were a few odd-man rushes here or there but there just wasn't a flat-out display of speed by either team. Each team seemed to wait for the other to make mistakes and strike. Fortunately for the Capitals, the Penguins made more mistakes and as a result, Washington won 3-0.
-The obvious story line of this game is the return of Brooks Orpik and to a lesser extent Matt Niskanen. Orpik was really good. Teamed with John Carlson, he saw plenty of shifts against the Penguins' top two lines and really laid the body on anyone in a black jersey. Additionally, Orpik recorded an assist and had a role in the Capitals' third goal as well. He was on the ice for all three of his team's goals tonight.
-Some oafs blurted out some derogatory comments at Orpik during the national anthem. THe basic message was that Orpik [stinks]. Tonight, nothing could be further from the case.
-Niskanen was a little less notable int his game but he played a pretty responsible game overall while teamed with Karl Alzner.
-The Penguins were bad. Just bad. They had several chances but someone would either force a bad pass or a stick would break or something just snuffed out whatever hopes they had at scoring a goal.
-Sidney Crosby was a big part of those missed chances. He had a stick break on a clean look on net during a power play but he also had some poor decisions such as a forced pass to Andrew Ebbett on a short-handed two-on-one which Mike Green broke up. This isn't a new problem with Crosby. It's been lingering for at least a month now. The Penguins need and deserve better from their captain.
-Crosby was primarily responsible for Washington's second goal. With Despres in deep, Crosby retreated to the poitn to play defense. As Johansson carried the puck through the neutral zone, Crosby basically overpersued it and took a terrible angle at Johansson. Johansson made one move by Crosby and walked in on a two-on-one to score.
-Having Hornqvist leave the game didn't help matters obviously. After playing a pretty strong game Tuesday against the Lightning, he seemed engaged in the physical tone of the first period before leaving.
-Derrick Pouliot had such an up and down game. There were times where he just looked like he was in complete control. Early in the first period, he was able to break up a three-on-one by getting a leg on a pass by Alex Ovechkin. But other times, he was too confident and made some poor passes.
-Mike Johnston was frank with his comments on Pouliot after the game:
“I thought Derrick was light on the puck tonight. He's got to be harder on the puck. He's got to be harder on one-on-one battles. And that's an education thing for a young defensman. I thought he made some very good plays which he normally does but he has to be a lot heavier on the puck, a lot heavier in one-on-battles.”
-The Penguins actually had a half-way decent third line on paper between Nick Spaling, Marcel Goc and Jayson Megna at the start of the game but it offered little. And Megna was promoted to the second line in the absence of Hornqvist. He did little with that chance either.
-Robert Bortuzzo looked okay in his first game back. Whatever limitations he had due to his "upper-body" injury which sidelined him for a few games were not evident. He was very engaged physically and seemed eager to jump into the play.
-Bryan Rust played primarily on the first line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz. He looked very confident but we're not sure we saw lot of chemistry there. He skated around with the puck a lot but didn't seem to find ways to get it to Crosby or Kunitz. There's definitely a part of Rust's game which should keep him in the NHL but we're just not sure he's a true first liner.
-Scott Harrington did not have a good night. On the ice for all three goals, he struggled. In fairness, two of the goals, the first by Eric Fehr and the second by Johansson, were kind of bad luck plays but Harrington will not want to watch the video of this game.
-Brandon Sutter had a rough game physically. He took a high hit from Washington's Tom Wilson which staggered him in the first period and in the second period, he was tripped up while driving to the net at high speed and cracked his right arm or elbow off a goal post. He probably needed a few ice bags tonight.
-The Penguins' power play continues to struggle. Losing Hornqvist didn't help but they had enough components still in the lineup that they should have posed more of a danger than they did tonight. The Capitals had far too easy of a time on the penalty kill.
-The Capitals did a great job of tying things up in the neutral zone. The Penguins looked like they were running through a thorn jagger bush in the neutral zone.
-Washington's third line of Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich were a big part of that.
-Crosby wasn't alone in odd decisions with the puck. At one point, Alex Ovechkin forced a pass to Jay Beagle on a two-on-one.
-While the Penguins were hardly a major challenge tonight, don't dismiss Braden Holtby. He was tuned in. The puck looked like a beach ball to him.
-One thing to keep in mind above all else; Even with the returns of Brandon Sutter and Robert Bortuzzo, the Penguins still had 11 players out of the lineup while the Capitals only had three. This is not the best lineup the Penguins have ever dressed.
On the video tribute and fans offering an ovation:
“Yeah, it was awesome. I didn't know what to expect to be honest with you. I thought about it this afternooon. Hoping it was 50/50 [cheers to boos]. It definitely was on my mind. It was pretty cool. The fans were nothing but good to me when I was here. It was an awesome moment.
On the Penguins' offensive struggles:
I thought our forwards did a really good job in the neutral zone. If you let those guys [the Penguins] get speed through the neutral zone, that's where they kill you. I thought especially Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, that line did a really good job on them. I don't know. Maybe Sid was was hopefully little bit heavy after the three days [for holiday break] the way he eats. Maybe that slowed him down a little bit. I thought it was a team effort. It wasn't one guy shutting those guys down.
Did it take a shift or two to treat this like a normal game and not your first game back in Pittsburgh:
"I was a little bit nervous the first couple. I've played in some big games before but haven't been that nervous to be honest with you. But that went away pretty quick. Just tried to get a few in pretty quick and calm the nerves a little bit."
Was this game more significant due to your history with the team or just because it was two points in the standings:
"A little bit of both. I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel pretty good, a little better than most games. But we lost a tight one to the Rangers [Tuesday] who we've been flip-flopping with right before the [holiday] break. We didn't want to lose two in a row, especially within the division. We knew they were missing a couple of guys so it was a good opportunity for us to kind of jump on them."
Did you sense Crosby or Evgeni Malkin getting frustrated:
"They were shut out so I think naturally they would be a little frustrated but I thought we did a really good job team-wise on those guys, especially just trying to neutralize their speed in the neutral zone. It doesn't happen often with those guys. Those guys, even when you play well against them, they still find opportunities. When they did, Holtby made some big saves for us too."
How were you able to shut down their power play?
“Just try to stay tight in the box there. We know they like to go across the box. A lot of seam passes. We didn't want to allow that. We were going to give them strong-side shots if we could. Let Holtby see them. You take too many penalties, that's dangerous against that power play. That's something we talked about. The best way to kill those is stay out of the box. Not take many. I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part discipline-wise."
On playing his former teammates:
"Once the game started, I was pretty comfortable but there were moments it felt awkward for sure, just seeing guys you played with for sure."
"Certainly, you want to try to neutralize him. He might have been frustrated at his sticks too. I think he broke a couple. But if you want to beat them, you have to neutralize him as best you can. Sid had a breakaway. [Malkin] had a few looks around the net in tight. He certainly could have generated something there. It felt like they were dangerous a few times. You feel like they're lurking. But a pretty good team effort by us. Just team defense clogging things up and being in front of them all night."
Was this game more significant due to your history with the team or just because it was two points in the standings:
"Selfishly, I certainty wanted to win the game. It was a nice win. But more importantly, if we want to get to where we want to be, which is in the playoffs and higher in the playoff standings, we need these type of games. It was a good team effort by everybody. [Holty] was pretty sharp when he needed to be. If we want to keep moving forward, we've got to beat teams ahead of us. “
On the significance of the game due to Orpik and Niskanen:
That was one we definitely wanted to win for them. [We] took a penalty tonight. You could tell other guys wanted to bear down a little harder because we wanted to make sure we killed it because we that win for a guy [Orpik] that does … he's played so long here. I'm sure it meant a lot to him.
-The Capitals led in shots on net, 34-31.
-The Capitals led in attempted shots, 63-53.
-Ovechkin led the game with 10 shots.
-Rush and Malkin each led the Penguins with four shots.
-Carlson led the game with 24:37.
-Letang led the game with 23:56 of ice time.
-The Capitals had a 32-29 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Nicklas Backstrom was 12 for 18 (67 percent).
-Goc was 9 for 16 (56 percent).
-Carlson led the game with five blocked shots.
-Bortuzzo and Simon Despres led the Penguins with four shots.
-This was the Capitals' first shutout of the Penguins since a 1-0 home win, Jan. 11, 2012. Vokoun made 30 saves.
-Fehr had his second two-goal game against the Penguins. His other one took part in the rain at Heinz Field during the 2011 Winter Classic, Jan. 1, 2011.
-If the Penguins had the equivalent of an indoor/outdoor porch for a rink, he'd probably cash in there as well.
-Some sights. The ice:
-Fans entering the barn:
-This is the first Thomas Greiss jersey we've seen this season:
-This is hardcore. A Connor James Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Christmas jersey:
-We always seem to run into a Craig Adams fan:
-The always rare Tanner Glass No. 10:
-Evgeni Malkin Magnitogorsk Metallurg:
-There are quite a few Capitals fans on hand. Mike Green:
-Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby:
-Former Penguins/Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun:
-Former Penguins/Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar:
-Jersey of the Night: Orpik:
-Highlights (so to speak):