-Greetings on a mild, early February day in Pittsburgh. It's slightly cloudy and in the mid-40s. The snow is starting to melt. You don't have to bundle up like you're about to invade Antarctica. It's not bad for this time of year.
-The Capitals come into this game in the midst of a pretty ugly slump. We'd be surprised if they don't play desperate. They have to in order to keep up in the standings.
-The Capitals should get some better goaltending tonight from Michal Neuvirth than they did Sunday from Braden Holtby. Holtby looked like he had a hole in his glove.
-The Capitals are still using Alex Ovechkin, normally a left winger, on the right wing. The results haven't been great.
-Despite this nasty slump, they are still confident in the system they're playing under new coach Adam Oates. Despite getting thumped by the Penguins Sunday, every member of the team we talked to swore they played the right way. It was just a matter of execution.
-Kris Letang's status is up in the air for tonight's game due to undisclosed reasons. If he can't go, Dylan Reese, a free agent signing this past offseason, will get in the lineup a night after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He seems very confident that he's prepared to step into the Penguins' system.
-The Ben Lovejoy era comes to an end. Lovejoy is limited in what he can do as an NHL player. He's a No. 6 or 7 defenseman at this level. That said, he remains the only professional athlete who has ever extended his hand and introduced himself to us without prompting. If we ever make a list of good humans we've encountered in this business, it's difficult to imagine Lovejoy not being in the top five.
-A few sights around the barn. Fans entering said barn:
-Marc-Andre FLeury is on the cover of Ice Time:
-A complicated relationship:
-There are a few Capitals fans here. Tomas Fleischmann:
-There always seems to be a Craig Adams jersey:
-Mark Eaton still has a fan here:
-Given this man's playoff heroics against the Capitals, we would normally name a Martin Straka jersey as Jersey of the Night:
-Jersey of the Night: But never in a million years did we expect to ever encounter a Kelly Buchberger Thrashers jersey:
-Kris Letang did not skate during warm-ups. He will not play. With him sidelined due to a "lower-body" injury. expect Dylan Reese to make his Penguins debut. He should be paired with Simon Despres.
-Presumably, that means Paul Martin will get time on the team's top power-play unit. It will be interesting to see how he handles bringing the puck up ice into the offensive zone.
-The starters are Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Dustin Jeffrey, Kris Letang and Eric Tangradi.
-The Capitals' starters are Nicklas Backstrom, Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson, John Carlson, Jeff Schultz and Michael Neuvirth.
-Their scratches are John Erskine, Tom Poti and Mathieu Perreault.
-Jeff Jimerson handles the national anthem:
19:19: Off a backhanded pass from Sidney Crosby, Brooks Orpik strikes a one-timer from the center point. Neuvirt steers it away.
18:37: After Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz combine to force Mike Green in to a turnover on the left wing boards, Kunitz smacks a slapper on net. Neuvirth eats it up.
17:26: Tomas Kundratek pumps a slapper on net form the right point. Fleury steers to to the left corner. Jay Beagle battles for the rebound and deals to Matt Hendricks who whips a whick shot on net. Fleury fights that off.
15:48: The Capitals take an early lead. Kundratek grips and rips a heavy wrister from above the left circle. Fleury appears to make the save but falls back a someone made contact with him. Fleury's lid flops off. Mike Ribeiro is right there in fron to fhte blue paint and cleans up the rebound. Orpik was in front of Fleury battling with Wojtek Wolski. Replays appear to show Orpik's stick clipping Fleury. Either way, the Capitals went to the net and got a goal. Kundratek and Ovechkin get assists. Capitals 1-0.
13:20: Off a pass from Johanson off the right half wall, xxx booms a slapper from the slot wide to the left of the cage.
12:36: The Penguins nearly get it back. Off the right point,of the offensive zone, Sutter centers a pass to the slot. The puck hops up on Cooke who settles it down, dekes by Green and pushes a backhander on net. Neuvirth makes the save.
10:00: If anyone is wondering why play wasn't stopped on the Ribeiro goal when Fleury lost his lid, Rule 9.5 of the NHL rulebook states: "When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has possession of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask. When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity. This stoppage of play must be made by the Referee."
8:36: Taking a pass from Ovechkin above the right circle, Carlson pounds a slapper. Fleury kicks it out.
8:27: Off a feed from Kunitz off the right wall, Dupuis jabs a little shot on net from in tight. Neuvirth holds it out.
7:56: On a delayed penalty, Zach Boychuk is denied in tight by Neuvirth. Karl Alzner is called for holding Evgeni Malkin. Martin takes the ice on the left point in place in Letang. He's joined by Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz and James Neal take the ice.
6:55: A slapper by Martin from the left points wide on the near side.
6:15: short-handed, Nicklas Backstrom pounds a one-timer from the top of the left circle. Fleury punches it away.
5:55: The Alzner minor expires. The Penguins did not record an official shot on net that two minutes. They had two misses.
5:33: Off a steal by Dupuis form Riberio at the left point of the Capitals' zone, Dupuis deals a pass to Kennedy in the left circle. Kennedy grips and rips a wrister to far side. Neuvirth kicks it out.
4:10: Backstrom gains the zone at the center point. He deals a pass to Ovechkin on the right wing. Ovechkin undresses Engelland in the right circle and lifts a quick wrister on net. Fleury fights it off. Tough save. Engelland owe Fleury a beer.
1:41: Bortuzzo thumps Hendricks to the ice behind the Penguins' net.
0:40: The Penguins ahve Boychuk on the ice with Malkin and Crosby.
0:00: End of period. Capitals 1, Penguins 0.
-That was a pretty even period all around. If not for a sort of fluky play, this is a 0-0 game.
-There weren't a ton of quality scoring chances for either team. Both teams are playing it safe defensively.
-The Penguins' third line continues to look strong. It was on the ice for the Ribeiro goal but that was somewhat fluky. The line did create the Penguins' best scoring chance with Kennedy forcing a turnover in the neutral zone. That led to a backhanded chance for Cooke.
-The power play looked just as stale without Kris Letang as without him.
-We'd be lying if we said we noticed Dylan Reese. And that's probably a good thing. He has 5:46 of ice time on seven shifts and one blocked shot.
-Reese is the fifth player in franchise history to wear No. 42. The others are:
Tuomas Gronman (1998)
Dustin Jeffrey (2009)
Nick Johnson (2010)
Corey Potter (2011)
-The Capitals have an 8-5 lead in shots.
-Wolski leads the game with two.
-Martin lead the game with 8:26. That's actually down from the 9:00-plus he usually gets in the first period of games.
-Schultz leads the Capitals with 8:02.
-Faceoffs are tied, 9-9 (50 percent).
-Malkin is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Backstrom is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
18:55: After a neutral zone turnover by Sutter, Ovechkin whistles a wrister from inside the left circle. Fleury fights it off.
17:51: Malkin races up the left wing, spins off a stick check from Alzner and whips a wrister wide of the cage.
15:48: Engelland grips a wrister from above the left point. Despite a scren by the great Joe Vitale, Neuvirth kicks it out.
14:47: Crosby gains the offensive zone on the right wing, draws in Alzner and sneaks a pass through traffic to Despres at the left point. Despres takes the pass and puts a heavy shot on net. Neuvirth denies it. Attendance is announced as 18,650. It is the team's 258th consecutive sell-out.
13:33: Off a neutral zone turnover by Martin, Ovechkin picks up the loose puck on the left wing, gains the zone, uses Orpik as a screen and whips a wrister on net. Fleury eats it up.
13:11: The Penguins get another chance on the pwero lsy as Alzner holed up Sutter in the neutral zone. That's interference. Martin, Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz and Neal take the ice.
13:01: Whoa. What. A. Shot. Martin controls the puck at center point and deals to Crosby at the top of the right circl.e Crosby once touches it Malkin the left circle. Malkin moves in and fires a laser of a wrister over the left shoulder of Neuvirth. The puck clunks off the cross bar and into the cage. Yikes. Neuvirth didn't even see this ridiculous shot. A centimeter to the left, right, up or down, that's not a goal. Crosby and Martin get assists. The "Hey Song" and the "Malkamania" clip are played. Capitals 1, Penguins 1.
11:29: Ovechkin appears to leave his feet to hit Glass near visiting penalty box. No call.
9:18: From the left wing, Kenndy pounds a slapper to the far side.
7:11: Dupuis gets off the schneid with a non-empty net goal. Crosby gains the offensive zone at center points and deals a subtle backhanded pass to Dupuis on the left wing. With the puck bouncing, Dupuis snaps off a wrister which sneaks through the gear of Neuvirth. Not a good goal for him to allow. Dupuis will take it as it's his first goal against a goaltender since Jan. 29. Crosby and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-1.
4:46: Cooke spins off acheck in e theup zone. Sutter takes the pass and attacks the offensive zone at the center paoint with speed. He cuts through Green and Alzner with speed.
4:18: After Kennedy makes a nifty backhanded shot through his legs in front of the crease, the rebound bounces to Ward in the left wing corner. Kennedy hustles over to pressure Ward. Ward then flings the puck out of play. That's delay of game. Great play by Kennedy. Neal, Malkin, Martn, Kunitz and Crosby take the ice.
3:27: That. Was. Smooth. Kunitz controls the puck above the left circle, allows Neal to skate by him down the left wing and passes to Neal at the bottom of the circle. Neal skirts across the front of the blue paint and slides a backhander under the legs of a sprawling Holtby. Just pretty. Kunitz and Malkin get helpers. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 3-1.
3:16: The Penguins are off and running. The Malkin-Neal quick draw plays works for Sutter and Cooke. Sutter beats Riberio on the draw. Cooke is right behind Sutter, leans down and wnaps off a wrister by the glove hand Holtby. What a shot. Sutter gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is winded. Penguins 4-1.
2:31: Sing-song "Hooollltt...bbbeeeee...." chants begin.
1:42: This just keeps getting worst for the Capitals. Roman Hamrlik decides to make an appearance and holds up Dupuis. He actually physically used on of the officials to hold up Dupuis. Malkin, Crosby, Martin, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
1:03: The Penguins nearly strike again. Neal slides a pass from the left circle to Kunitz in the right circe. Kunitz one-touches it to Crosby on the doorstep off the left wing. Crosby taps it towards the seemingly open cage but Holtbyreaches back with his stick and scoops it out. WHAT A SAVE.
0:32: Off a pass from deep in the left corner, Neal leans down and snaps off wrister from the left circle. Holtby eats it up.
0:21: The rout is on. Neal deals a pass from the left circle to Malkin the right circle. Malkin grips and rips a wrister. Holtby makes the initial save but the puck flutter up behind him. Crosby is on the door and re-directs the garbage into the cage by batting the puck out of mid-air. Malkin and Neal get assists. The "Hey Song" will have an optional skate tomorrow.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 5, Capitals 1.
-What a change for the Penguins. After a mostly stale first period, they just turned it on.
-Pittsburgh might have a quarterback controversy. A power-play quarterback controversy. It's amazing how composed this group looks with Paul Martin at the point compared to Kris Letang. If you can imagine such a thing, the power play was 3 for 4.
-The third line has been strong. It has created a ton of scorign chances, pestered the heck out of the Capitals' top two lines and just been a force all game long.
-We're not sure what Adam Oates hoped to accomplish pulling Neuvirth but this probably wasn't it. That Dupuis goal should ahve been a save, but that didn't strike us as enough to pull Neuvirth.
-The Penguins are dominating shots, 23-14.
-Ovechkin leads the Capitals with four shots.
-Kennedy, Neal and Dupuis each lead the game with three shots.
-Martin lead sthe game with 18:09 of ice time.
-Carlson leads the capitals with 15:15.
-The Penguins control faceoffs, 24-17 (59 percent).
-Malkin is 8 for 11 in faceoffs (73 percent).
-Backstrom is 7 for 10 (70 percent).
18:37: Neal lifts a wrister from the left circle. Holtby gloves it.
16:48: Eric Fehr tries to create something by jamming a forehand shot into Fleury from the left of the cage. Fleury holds it out. Fehr gives some shoves to Orpik and Martin but no one bites.
16:01: During a stoppage, Bortuzzo and Ovechkin mix it up. Looked like Bortuzzo gave a little jab to Ovechkin's legs. Ovechkin responded with a cross check. Bortuzzo is sent off for roughing. Ovechkin for cross checking. That's a win for the Penguins. Four on four.
14:44: With a litlte mor espace ot work witfour on four, Mike Green fires a slapper from the lef tpoint. Fleury kicks it out with his left leg. Tough save.
14:11: A shot by Shcultz is blocked out of play Engelland.
13:12: On a delayed penalty, Ovechkin flings a wrister wide of the cage from above the left circle. Orpik is sent off for roughing Ovechkin. The Capitals earned that power play by dominating puck possession in the offensive zone. The Penguins were chasing. This television timeout couldn't come at a better time for the Penguins. Cooke, Martin, Glass and Engelland take the ice.
12:39: Off a Ribeiro pass, Brouwer pounds a one-timer from th eleft circke. Fleury knocks it dead and covers.
11:26: The Capitals get a little life. Ribeiro sneaks a pass from the left circle to Ovechkin in the right tcircle. Ovechkin grips and rips a wrister by the blocker of Fleury. That's vintage Ovechkin there. Ribeiro and Green get assists. Penguins 5-2.
9:49: After his team ices the puck, Dan Bylsma calls a timeout to get a breather.
8:48: From inside hiw own blue line, Backstrom snaps off a pass to Ovechkin at the Penguins blue line. Ovechkin gets behind Martin and Engelland, approaches the net and lifts a backhander high and wide to the left of the cage. Ick. What a bad shot.
5:12: Malkin huslte sup the left wing and sneaks a wrister on net from in tight. Neuvirth holds it out.
4:13: Fehr has a chance in th slot but his backhander is eaten up by Fleury.
3:15: Sutter runs over Chimera in the neutral zone.
2:28: Ovechkin and Engelland give chase after a puck in the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone. THe slam shoulders and Ovechkin is sent sprawling.
2:00: Ovechkin rips a wrister form the left circle. Fleury fight sit off. He chases after tehr eoubnd behind the cage with Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo sends him crashing into the boards with a shoulder check. Bortuzzo is called for interference. Cooke, Orpik, Martin and Dupuis take the ice.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Capitals 2.
-How historic was this win? The last time the Penguins beat the Capitals in regulation at home during the regular season, Jocelyn Thibault was the starting goaltender. The last time the Penguins were victorious against the Capitals in those circumstances was a 3-2 win, Feb. 18, 2007. Thibault got the win, Mark Recchi, Evgeni Malkin and Maxime Talbot got goals. And it was the second game of the team's current sell-out streak of 258 consecutive games.
-What a thumping. This was about as one-sided of a win the Penguins played all season. They were kind of stale in the first period and a little flat a the start of the second. Then the power play of all things, saved the day.
-The power play had one chance in the first period and just didn't look like it had any life. Then in the second period, it shredded the Capitals. With Paul Martin manning the center point, it looked comoposed, organized and for once... dangerous. It actually looked like a weapon. The passing was smooth with Martin up top. A lot smoother than Kris Letang at least.
-We're not saying you completely dump Letang off the power play, especially given his injury, but Martin made a case tonight to be the point man on this unit.
-The turning point of this game was the Capitals' decision to switch goaltenders. The goal Michal Neuvirth allowed to Pascal Dupuis was very leaky but it wasn't attrocious at the same time. Despite that, Adam Oates decided to pull Neuvirth and put in Braden Holtby who the Penguins embarrassed Sunday. The decision was made in order to spark the Capitals but the exact opposite happened. The Penguins smelled blood and pounced on the Capitals.
-The Penguins third line was a real catalyst tonight. It created things offensively. It hounded the Capitals' top lines and even set the table for the Penguins' power play to score the game-winning goal in the second period. Tyler Kennedy, who had a strong game, forced Joel Ward to flip the puck out of play. That gave James Neal a chance to score the eventual game-winning goal. Soon after that, Matt Cooke scored off a quick-draw faceoff play to put the Penguins up 4-1. THis line has had a strong run as of late.
-Dylan Reese looked calm, comfortable and confident in his Penguins debut. He didn't do anything outstanding but he was responsible. His time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has been well spent.
-Fleury was tested in spurts here and there. Once again, he was strong. He wasn't fighting the puck. He spit out clean rebounds and gave his team a chance to comeback from an early deficit.
-We don't know what to say about the Capitals. They look beyond lost. They just don't look organized at all. In the locker room after the game, they were beyond frustrated. Alex Ovechkin's postgame media scrum lasted just short of 44 seconds.
-When evaluating the Penguins' power play, keep in mind that the Capitals' penalty kill is pretty rotten right now. That said, it's impossible not to notice Paul Martin's impact on this unit tonight.
-The Penguins led in shots, 28-25.
-Ovechkin led the game with six shots.
-Pascal Dupuis, Neal and Kennedy each led the Penguins with four.
-Martin led the game with 28:08 of ice time.
-Green led the Capitals with 25:05.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 36-26 (58 percent).
-Malkin was 10 for 16 (63 percent).
-Backstrom was 9 for 17 (53 percent).
-Deryk Engelland and Reese each led the game with two blocked shots.
-With 626 career points, Sidney Crosby is 10 points from tying Rick Kehoe (636) for third-most in Penguins history.