-Greetings on a beautiful late winter day in Pittsburgh. It's warm, sunny clear. It's a great day in general but it's might not be a great day for hockey in Consol Energy Center.
-A few players have informally expressed concern for how the ice is maintained at this building in terms of accounting for outside conditions. Apparently there are gauges which can adjust the temperature, humidity and other atmospheric conditions indoors. When weather gets warmer or more humid, those variables need to be manually adjusted. We'll see if said conditions have been adjusted adequately.
-Craig Adams expressed some concern about how the Penguins have played recently. Despite winning the last two games, they have been thoroughly dominated in terms of puck possession. In the past three games, the Penguins have attempted 153 shots, an average of 51 per game. The opponents have 213 shots, average of 71. That approach won't work in the playoffs, even against a mostly weak field of teams in the Eastern Conference.
-We will give the Penguins some sympathy on this front as Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak are still working their ways into the lineup while Taylor Pyatt and Jussi Jokinen are experimenting on different lines.
-A lot of what you will see from the Penguins from now until the end of the regular season is experimenting. This is a team which is still trying to find identity as a team and in select groups with regards to lines, defensive pairings and special teams units. Add in the the potential returns of Beau Bennett and Paul Martin and that's a lot of moving parts.
-One thing is certain, Marc-Andre Fleury, now more than ever, must be this team's most dominant player. One could argue that has been the case most of this season. Fleury has been the steadiest player for this team since Oct. 3, the season opener. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have had stretches of rough play throughout the season but not Fleury. Aside from a bad game her or there, his performance this season has been consistent.
-As far as tonight's opponent, it will be interesting to see how the Capitals try to turn it around tonight minus Brooks Laich who did not travel to Pittsburgh for undisclosed reasons. We would expect to see rookie Evgeny Kusnetsov sub in for him on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
-It'll be interesting to see how the defensive pairings sort out in terms of match ups. The Rob Scuderi-Matt Niskanen combo got a lot of Ovechkin in the early stages of the game. Later, with a one-goal lead, Brooks Orpik and Olli Matta saw a lot of Ovechkin. Regardless of who saw the defending Hart Trophy winner, he was kept off the score sheet.
-The Capitals top line last night was easily the trio of Eric Fehr, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. We're eager to see them in person tonight.
-We always seem to run into a Craig Adams fan:
-Ushers are armed with signs to prevent fans from walking around the stands during play:
-Penguins fan Cy Clark is on hand to show "support" to Alex Ovechkin:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are a smattering of Capitals fans. Braden Holtby:
-Beware Jarkko Ruutu fans. There is a Chris Simon fan on the loose:
-A complicated relationship:
-Colby Armstrong Thrashers:
-The always rare Trevor Linden Canucks knockoff/Matt Matt Cooke Cook double jersey foul:
-Former Penguins/Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar:
-Jersey of the Night: Given his overtime goal against the Capitals in the 1995 playoffs, we have to go with Luc Robitaille:
-The Penguins starters are Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Penguins' lines and defensive pairing in warmups were:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen - Brandon Sutter - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Brian Gibbons
Tanner Glass - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams
Matt Niskanen - Rob Scuderi
Olli Maatta - Brooks Orpik
Simon Despres - Robert Bortuzzo
-The Capitals' starters are Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Jaroslav Halak.
-Their scratches are John Erskine, Brooks Laich and Patrick Wey.
-Their lines and defensive pairings:
-Jeff Jimerson does what he does best:
18:25: Taking a pass from Jay Beagle at center point, Jack Hillen pumps a wrister on net. Fleury boots it out.
17:47: Goc chucks a backhander from the right wing on net, potentially hopping for a pass-of-pads type of rebound for Glass in the slot. Halak cleanly steers it to the opposite wing.
17:02: Neal releases a wrister from the right circle. Halak fights it off.
16:33: Jokinen chases down a puck in the left wing corner and sneaks a pass to Malkin all alone in the slot. Malkin leans down and releases a heavy shot which Halak fights off.
15:49: Crosby has a chance but fails to cash in . On a partial two on-one he forces a pass from the right circle to Kunitz in the left circle. Troy Brouwer hustles on a backcheck and dives to break up the pass.
15:44: Kunitz gets another chance in the left circle but his wrister is blocked by a sliding Hillen.
12:59: A wrister by Stempniak from above the right circle is blocked by Johansson.
12:40: A wrister by Oveckhin from the right cirlc is blocked on a stick-on-puck by Scuderi.
10:26: Scuderi chucks a wrister from the right half wall. Halak steers it away.
8:00: There has been
7:33: Orpik rattles Ward with a solid hit into the bards near the Penguins' left point.
7:18: Mike Green races the puck u ice from his own zone and pops a slapper from the Penguins' center point wide of the cage.
6:12: Orpik fires a wrister from the left point wide of hte cage.
5:37: Pyatt slides a weak wrister on net from the right half wall. Halak smothers it. That's the first stoppage in play since there was 19:21 remaining in the period. That's 13:45 of uninterrupted play.
5:10: Jokinen backhands a pass from the right half wall to Scuderi at the right point. Scuderi golfs a one-timer which Halak snags.
3:56: Taking a pass on the right wing, Sutter rips a rising wrister tot he far side. Halak fights it off.
3:16: The "old" second line strikes. Malkin wheels around int he right wing corner and slides a pass to Niskanen at the right point. Niskanen grips and rips a wrister towads the net. Jokinen skates in fron tof haak on a moving screen and re-directs the puck which his forehand through the five hole of Halak. What a play by Jokinen. Niskanen and Malkin get assists. That chance was The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
2:05: After a neutral zone turnover by the Penguins off an attempted stretch pass, Chimera has a chance in the right circle. He lifts a wrister which Fleury fights off.
1:27: Despres rips a wrister from the right point. Halak steers it away despite traffic.
0:11: Alzner pounds a slapper from the right point. It hits a body or two and is knocked dead.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Capitals 0.
-That was a pretty up and down period with the Penguins having a clear advantage in puck possession. They controlled the puck for the most part and put several quality shots on net.
-If not for Halak playing pretty well, this could be a two- or three-goal difference.
-Jokinen looked pretty sharp on the second line. He was pretty sharp with a few passes he dished out and the play he made on his goal was sublime.
-Stempniak did not look all that sharp with Crosby and Kunitz that period.
-Did anyone see Alex Ovechkin?
-The Penguins have a 13-6 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 21-12 lead in attempted shots.
-Stempniak, Hillen and Chimera each lead the game with two shots.
-Dmitry Orlov leads the games with 8:01 of ice time.
-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 7:50.
-The Penguins have a 5-3 lead in faceoffs (53 percent).
-Crosby is 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Beagle is 1 for 2 (50 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
-A reader spotted a Nate Guenin Ducks jersey:
-And... a tremendous jersey foul:
19:33: Crosby hustles up the right wing and flings a backhander over the cage.
17:30: Connor Carrick pushes a puck up the right wing and is dropped with a heavy hit into the boards just inside the Penguins' blue line by Despres. Oof.
16:49: Crosby drops Fehr with a hit in the Capitals' left circle a little away from the puck. He might have gotten away with some interference.
16:35: The Penguins get a power play as the Capitals are nabbed for too many men on the ice. Tom Wilson will serve the minor. Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, Crosby an Niskne take the ice.
16:04: Off some perimeter passing, Niskanen swipes a one-timer from above the right circle. Halak boots it out.
15:27: Short-handed, Nicklas Backstrom pushes a puck up the ice into the Penguins' zone and chucks a wrister from center point. Niskanen has a big gap and blocks it.
15:15: Jokinen takes a pass on the right wingpulls up at the half wall and whips a wrister on net. Malkin is moving through on a screen and redirects it on net. Halak smothers it.
14:35: The Capitals' minor is killed. The Penguins maintained the puck pretty well but didn't really put many quality shot on net.
13:36: Off a turnover by Scuderi in his own left wing corner, Ward attempts a wrister but ha it stolen by Crosby. Scuderi owes Crosby a beer.
13:05: Taking a pass from above the left circle, Neal whipstes a wrister wide of the cage.
11:57: Stempniak pushes a puck past Orlov in the neutral zone, gains the offensive zone and undresses poor Carrick en route to the net. He goes backhand an dis denied by Halalksrigh leg.
11:46: Orpik chucks a wrister from the left point. Halak makes the stop but the puck hops up on him. Stempniak is above the blue pain and chops at it in midair. The puck then bounds off the cross bar and out. What a crazy shift for Stempniak.
9:25: Neal rips a wrister from the right circle on net. Halak eats it up.
8:58: Taking pass at the right point, Alzner chucks wrister at the cage. It hits a body and there is a scramble. Kuznetsov get a stick on the rebound but puts it off the near post and then Fleury's right leg rejects him. Wow!
8:16: Alzner takes a pass in he right circle and rips a wrister which Maatta gets a stick on. Fleury fights it off.
6:38: A wrister by Jason Chimera from the right wing is fought off by Fleury.
6:15: Ovechkin controls the puck on the right half wall of the attacking zone and is booed. That's only the third or fourth time he's been booed. He hasn't been a big enough factor to get his customary "greeting" here as much as he normally does.
4:08: Niskanen pops a slapper from the right half wall. It gets blocked.
3:31: Off a fed by Ovechkin, Carrick lifts a wrister from the right circle wide of the cage.
2:19: Attendance is announced as 18,646. It is the team's 316th consecutive sellout.
1:51: A wrister by Carlson from the right point is blocked by Bortuzzo. Glass taps the rebound down ice to clear it but ices the puck.
0:59: Hillen chops a slapper from the right point wide of the cage.
0:50: Malkin coasts up the right wing with the puck and challenges Hillen one-on-one with the puck. Hillen pokes it off his stick and steals it.
0:14: Orpik chops a one-timer from the right point. Halak boots it out.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Capitals 0.
-Things bogged down quite a bit for each team that period. There wasn't a ton of free space to skate with the puck and just about every shot near the cage had to go through a phalanx of bodies or sticks near the cage.
-Halak has been the best player in this game. He has stolen a few goals here and there to keep his team in it. He's playing much better than he did last night.
-The same can't be said of his teammate. They are playing a solid defensive game but have offered little else.
-It would be a stretch to say Fleury has been tested.
-We liked how the Bortuzzo-Despres pairing looked that period.
-The Penguins have a 26-12 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 39-27 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal leads the game with four shots on net.
-Chimera leads the Capitals with three.
-Niskanen leads the game with 14:55 of ice time.
-Green leads the Capitals with 14:03.
-The Penguins have a 17-7 lead in faceoffs (71 percent).
-Crosby is 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-Beagle is 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Bortuzzo, Orpik and Scuderi each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-Neal graces the cover of a funky-looking Icetime:
18:59: Neal and Niskanen catch Green napping and creates a breakaway. Neal sneaks a bank pass up the right wing boards of the neutral zone spring Neal behind Green. Neal attacks the net on a partial breakaway and rips a low shot. Halak's right leg boots it out.
18:46: A wrister by Hillen is snagged by Fleury.
18:29: Wilson drops Maatta with a solid hit into the Penguins' end boards.
17:47: Off an offensive zone faceoff win in the Penguins' right circle, Orlov pops a one-timer from above the left circle wide to the far side.
16:33: Crosby feed a pass from the nuetlr zone to Kunitz up the left wing. Kunitz mustel his way by Green and attacks the net. He loses the puck then loses his footing as he crashes into the net and then the end boards. The net comes dislodged and play is halted. Kunitz is smarting a bit after the collision and labors a bit to recover to his skates. He eventually makes it to the bench but seems a tad unsteady. Athletic trainer Chris stewart talks to him on the bench.
16:24: A wrister by Chimera is deflected out of play by Fleury.
16:05: Alzner chucks a wrister from the right point wide of the cage.
13:30: Kunitz is back on the ice with Adams and Goc.
12:33: Ovechkin controls a puck in the left circle, turns and whips a wrister on net. Fleury smothers it. Beagle digs for a puck under Fleury. Crosby and Orpik give him give back.
11:58: Niskanen is called for high sticking Kuznetsov in the Penguins' right circle. This is a big two minutes. Goc, Scuderi, Orpik and Adams take the ice.
11:30: Ovechkin sails a wrister from the left circle wide to the far side.
11:11: Chimera tries to jam in a forehand shot form the right side of the cage. Fleury holds it out. Adams clears the rebound down ice.
10:50: Play is halted as Maatta is checking his mouth. Backstrom brought his stick up while battling for a rebound in the Penguins' right wing corner and caught him in the mouth. That's two minutes for high sticking. We'll see four-on-four play for 52 seconds.
10:42: Maatta takes a pass at the right point and whacks a slapper wide to the far side.
9:58: The Niskanen minor is killed. The Penguins will have 1:08 of a power play. A goal here would ice this game.
9:40: Crosby gains the offensive zone down the slot and leaves a drop pass for Malkin in the high slot. Malkin grips and rips a wrister on net. Halak snags it.
9:05: Off a feed from Malkin, Nisaknen whacks a one-time from the right half wall. Halak knocks it dead with his glove and smothers the rebound.
8:46: As the Backstrom minor expires. Maatta hammers a one-timer from center point. Halak makes the save initially. Crosby has a chance with the rebound to the right of the cage but Halak's right leg denies him. Maatta gets another chance off another ebound but his writer is blocked. Wow!
7:09: Hillen swipes a slapper from above the left circle. Fleury reaches out to snag it with his glove hand. There's a scrum in front of Fleury but it quickly dissipates.
5:38: Game. Set. match. After Stempniak taps a puck by Brower at the right point, Crosby pushes it up the right wing and creates a partial two-on-one with Kunitz against Hillen. Hillen takes away the pass and gives Crosby the shot. Crosby takes up HIllen on his generosity and rips a wrister under the blocker of Halak on the far side. What a shot. A little more chemistry on display there between Stempniak and Crosby. Stempniak gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-0.
5:24: Carlson is deep in the offensive zone and whips a wrister on net from above the left circle. Fleury snags it.
4:57: Sutter sneaks up the right wing and feeds a pass to the blue paint. Gibbons charges in and taps it wide.
4:19: The Penguins are all of the Capitals in their own zone. After Adams forces Ward into a turnover near the Capitals' right wing corner, Glass swipes a shot on net from above the right circle. Halak smothers it.
4:08: The Capitals get another chance. Ward tries to chip and chase a puck up the right wing and is held up by Despres. That's two minutes of interference. Goc, Sutter, Scuderi and Adams take the ice.
3:41: Off some perfection passing, Browuer swipes a shot form the slot. Fleury kicks it out.
3:11: Brouwer gets another chance from the right circle which is once again is denied by Fleury. A scrum breaks out but officials break it up.
2:04: As the Despres minor expires, Kuznetsov chucks a wrister from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.
1:15: Halak is pulled for an extra attacker.
0:46: Green sails a wrister from the center point. Fleury fights it off and deflects it out of play. The Capitals call time out to get organized.
0:19: Ovehckin rips a slapper from the right point. Fleury kicks it out.
0:03: Green pound a slapper from the right point. it hits a body and trickles in on net. Fleury snags it.
0:00: End of game. Fans offer "FLERR-EEE!" chants. Penguins 2, Capitals 0.
-In an odd way, the Penguins, despite getting a shutout, didn't play nearly as well defensively in this game compared to last's night contest. That's because they didn't have to.
-Compared to last night, the Penguins did a much better job of controlling the puck and maintaining it. Puck possession was the name of tonight's game for the Penguins. They weren't perfect by any means in this aspect of the game. The Capitals had a few decent scoring chances, particularly in the third period. But the Penguins were much better tonight than the previous three games in terms of simply keeping the puck away from the opposition.
-Don't dismiss what the Penguins got out of Marc-Andre Fleury tonight. He was sharp, especially in the final 30 minutes. He earned this shutout.
-Lee Stempniak continues to look more and more comfortable with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. After a somewhat disjointed first period, Stempniak settled in and created a few solid scoring chance one shift in the second period then played a role in helping create Sidney Crosby's goal. After all of two games, it appears the first-line right wing job is Stempniak's to lose.
-Brooks Orpik and Olli Maatta had an outstanding game as a defensive pairing. They continue to grow as a duo. They routinely drew assignments against Alex Ovechkin line and limited him to two shots on net and probably not many more clean looks at the net.
-The Matt Niskanen-Rob Scuderi duo looked a lot more comfortable as well. They were solid in the first month of the season and they seem to have recaptured some of that chemistry.
-The Penguins used Taylor Pyatt, Sutter and Brian Gibbons as a third line tonight and the results were a little mixed. Sutter and Gibbons seemed to click a little with some passes and Bylsma lauded Pyatt for offering a physical element. Marcel Goc even rotated in a bit on the line.
-Goc seemed to take over for Sutter in the faceoff circle quite a bit tonight. Sutter only took three faceoffs and was 1 for 3. Goc on the other hand took 10 faceoffs going 8 for 10 (80 percent). We're not sure if that was simply Dan Bylsma taking advantage of matchups or a lack of faith in Sutter who has been underwhelming in faceoffs this season at 48.2 percent.
-The Simon Despres-Robert Bortuzzo duo, which was the top pairing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins during last season's lockout, looked pretty comfortable.
-After creating the first goal, the Jussi Jokinen-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal line came back to earth a bit.
-Special teams weren't really a factor as there were only four power plays. The Penguins' power play was fairly inert while the penalty kill was a rock.
-We have no clue what to make of the Capitals. They have a lot of talent, even with injuries, but something just isn't clicking. They had some pushes late in this game and they even hit a post in the second period with a 1-0 deficit. A goal there could change this game but beyond that, something just isn't clicking.
-The Capitals actually played a fairly decent game defensively. The Penguins had the puck a bunch but relatively few of their scoring chances were clean.
-Jaroslav Halak played a strong game. The only goals he gave up were on a perfect deflection play and a two-on-one to the NHL's leading scorer.
-The Penguins had a 34-32 edge in shots on net.
-The Capitals had a 59-51 lead in attempted shots.
-Jason Chimera led the Capitals with six shots.
-Niskanen led the Penguins with four shots.
-Green led the game with 23:22 of ice time.
-Niskanen led the Penguins with 23:08.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 32-15 (68 percent).
-Crosby was 15 for 23 (65 percent).
-Nicklas Backstrom was 6 for 12 (50 percent).
-Scuderi led the game with four blocked shots.
-John Carlson led the Capitals with two blocked shots.
-The Penguins recorded their 100th all-time regular season win against the Capitals and are now have a 100-83-16-5 record against that franchise. The only teams the Penguins have gotten more wins against more often are the Rangers (115) and the Islanders (110).
-The Penguins have now won eight consecutive games against the Capitals.
-The Penguins swept a season series from the Capitals for the third time in franchise history. They went 4-0-0 this season, 3-0-0 in 2012-13 and 4-0-0 in 2006-07.
-Fleury tied his career best of five shutouts set in 2006-07.