-Christian Ehrhoff will return to the Penguins' lineup after missing 12 games due to a suspected concussion. He might be the Penguins' best "trade deadline acquisition." A talented offensive player, Ehrhoff does a lot of things well but nothing spectacularly. He brings a lot of stability to the team.
-The team announced Ehrhoff will play on the second pairing along with Derrick Pouliot while Robert Bortuzzo will sit. There's a ton of skill in that duo but not a ton of strength. Kris Letang will throw the body around with the first pairing and ditto Simon Despres with the third pairing. Ehrhoff and Pouliot are more of a Playstation pairing. How will they hold up to net-front presences?
-Tonight's a big game. Yeah, the standings are big this time of year and the Penguins are definitely in a fight with the Capitals, Rangers and Islanders in the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division, but this game is big from a mental standpoint.
-One more win and the Capitals will sweep the season series from the Penguins. To date, they've done it with defense as they've allowed only one goal in three games. The Penguins need to find a way to put a few pucks behind Braden Holtby to boost their own confidence.
-The phrase "in their head" get tossed around a lot when one team or athlete has a repeated pattern of trouble with an opposing team or athlete. Unoriginal questions are asked in media scrums if that team is in your head or if you're in that team's head. We don't know what exactly that cliched phrase means but the Penguins clearly have issues with this team right now. If they enter a postseason series against the Capitals with four losses and only a handful of goals on their regular season resume against this team, those numbers and that feeling of futility will at the very least weigh a little bit on their minds.
-If nothing else, they won't have to answers questions about what's in their head from dopes like the author of this blog. The Penguins swept the Blue Jackets in last season's regular season. We can tell you they got sick of that question really quickly prior to their first-round playoff series with the Penguins.
-Braden Holtby has played a whopping 52 games so far this season. He's been pretty good. It has easily been his most consistent season in his young career. But if he plays something close to 70 games this season, how fresh is he going to be in the postseason. Jonathan Quick has done it a few times for the Kings and had success in the postseason but that the exception and not the rule.
-According to the Penguins' Web site, their lines and defensive pairings will be:
David Perron - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau
Nick Spaling - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Beau Bennett - Maxim Lapierre - Craig Adams
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Christian Ehrhoff - Derrick Pouliot
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres
-Justin St. Pierre is one of the referees for this game. He was one of the dopes who allowed last weeks Penguins-Capitals game to devolve into a circus late.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist David Perron, Christian Ehrhoff, Derrick Pouliot and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Daniel Winnik.
-The Capitals' starters are Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Braden Holtby.
-Their scratches are Jay Beagle, Jack Hillen and Aaron Volpatti.
19:18: Holtby is already stealing goals. After a neutral zone steal by Malkin, Comeau dives forward in the left circle to sweep a pass to Kunitz all alone in the slot. Kunitz tries to lift a backhander but HOltby snares it with a glove hand.
18:50: Letang chops a slaper from the right point wide on the near side.
16:44: Off a cross-ice feed from Hornqvist, Perron rips a wrister from the right circle. Holtby eats it up.
15:13: Off a defensive zone turnover by the Capitals, Malkin and Comeau each have shots blocked.
14:49: DOwnie rips a wrister from the left circle. Holtby gets a piece of it with his glove hand.
14:17: A wrister by Ehrhoff from the right point deflects out of play.
12:56: What new lines? Malkin races through the neutral zone, gains the offensive zone on the right wing and leaves a dro pass for Hornqvist above the right circle. As Malkin cuts to the slot, he picks Carlson and gives Hornqvist a chance to rip a wrister by Holtby's blocker on the far side. We're not sure if Malkin got stuck on the ice with Crosby's linemates on a long shift or what but Malkin clearly created that play. Malkin and Perron get assists and the Penguins get their first lead of the season against the Capitals. Penguins 1-0.
12:34: Martin whips a wrister through traffic from the left point. Holtby knocks it dead and smothers despite having Spaling and Sutter hovering.
12:00: Alex Ovechkin has a chance in tight denied by Fleury. It's Fleury's first save of the game.
11:47: All [heck] breaks loose as Tom Wilson ets trapped in the Penguins' bench. Michael Latt tries to get into the mass of humanity to help his teammate but ends up basically fighting Downie. Comeu gets involved. It's a complete melee. Rick Tocchet tries to break up some of the fight. Lapierre and Jason Chimera get involved. It takes officials several moments to sort things out. Latta, Wilson, Downie and Comeau each get roughing minors. After all of that, play remains five on five.
10:00: Malkin pushes a puck up the right wing, pulls up and rips a wrister wide on the near side.
9:25: Letang plays a puck up ice from the neutral zone. Ovechkin tries to put a body on him. Letang responds with a slash. No call.
9:09: Niskanen chucks a wrister from the right half wall. Hoping to hook up with Andre Burakovsky but Fleury is able to play the puck away.
9:02: Taking a feed at the right point, Niskanen pops a one-timer on net. Fleury snags it.
8:37: Orpik chucks a wrister from the right point. It deflects on net. Fleury fights it off as Ward chops at the rebound.
8:13: Fighting for a puck off an offensive zone faceoff win, Kunitz hooks up Alzner. Alzner might have gotten away with a bit of a stick grab there. It's a legit call on Kunitz. Adams, Lapierre, Scuderi and Letang take the ice.
8:03: Ovechkin whacks a one-timer from the left circle wide on the near side.
7:56: Another one-timer by Ovechkin from the left circle is wide once again and ends up clearing the offensive zone.
7:05: Ovechkin chops a one-timer from above the left circle which Ehrhoff blocks.
6:51: Ovechkin rockets a wrister from above the left circle wide to the far side.
6:44: Mike Green pounds a one-timer from above the left circle. Fleury kicks it out with his left skate.
6:13: The Kunitz minor is killed. Ovechkin sure had a ton of chances but we're not sure how many of them were high quality.
5:58: Letang fumbles a puck in his right circle and allows Ward to walk in on a mini breakaway. Ward attacks the net but is hooked up by Letang. That's two minutes for hooking. Adams, Lapierre, Ehrhoff and Scuderi take the ice.
5:15: Off a neutral zone steal, Spaling pushes the puck up the right wing, gains the offensive zone and backhands a puck to the slot. Sutter stabs at the puck but can't get a stick on it. That was a great chance set up by Spaling.
4:38: Green pounds a slapper from the right point. It's actually a pass intended for Brouwer to the left of the cage. Brouwer has a small window to shoot but can't handle the puck cleanly.
3:58: The Letang minor is killed. The Penguins did a much better job at limiting the Capitals with that chance.
3:08: Another penalty. Crosby gets a free hand on Wilson in the neutral zone. Wilson falls a little too easily and Crosby is called for holding. Lapierre, Adams, Scuderi and Letang take the ice.
2:59: Backstrom lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury snags it.
1:57: A wrister by Carlson from the high slot is blocked out of play.
1:27: The Penguins get a rare short-handed goal and it comes from a former teamamte. Matt Niskanen goes deep on the left wing, turns and flings a pass to the left point to no one in particular. Sutter hases it down on the right wing, recovers it and attacks the net. He goes forehand to backhand and lifts a shot by Holtby's blocker. Woof. Burakovsky might have been out of place on that pass attempt by Niskanen but that was awful. The goal is unassisted. Penguins 2-0.
0:25: Carlson whacks a slapper from the right point. Scuderi blocks it and is hobbled.
0:17: Crosby chases down a puck in the offensive zone, falls and flings a backhanded pass to the slot. Malkin settles the puck and rips a wrister which glances off the post.
0:08: What a change in momentum. After Malkin's post shot, the Capitals get a late goal. Chimera gains the offensive zone on the right wing and sets up a one-timer for Carlson from above the right circle. Carlson booms a one-timer which blows by Fleury's blocker. That's a two-goal swing in a matter of nine seconds. Wow. Chimera and Fehr get assists. Penguins 2-1.
0:00: End of period. Letang and Chimera exchange pleasantries in front of the Penguins net. Officials break it up. Penguins 2, Capitals 1.
-That was a pretty eventful period. The Penguins had a strong initial surge which led to them controlling the puck early and peppering Holtby with a few shots including one which led to a goal. The penalties by the Penguins kind of switched momentum back in the Capitals' favor but Washington couldn't convert.
-It just feels like someone is going to do something really stupid in this game. There are enough knuckleheads on each side for that to happen.
-The Penguins lead in shots on net, 8-6.
-The Penguins have a 22-18 lead in attempted shots.
-Brandon Sutter leads the game with five shots.
-Ovechkin leads the game with 9:00 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Capitals with 8:16 of ice time.
-The Capitals have a 13-9 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).
-Backstrom is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Crosby is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Scuderi leads the game with two blocked shots.
19:37: Off a defensive zone turnover by Despres, xx has a chacne in the left circle but it goes wide on the near side.
19:26: Hornqvist lugs the puck through the neutral zone and is slashed by Ward. Hornqvist falls a little too easily. Officials send Ward off for slashing. Kunitz, Malkin, Hornqvist, Crosby and Letang take the ice.
18:14: Letang whacks a one-timer from the center point. Hotlby snags it despite traffic.
18:06: Downie has a chance to the right of the cage fought off by Holtby.
17:26: The Hornqvist minor expires. The Penguins didn't have much going on there.
17:16: on a delayed penalty, Perron lifts a wrister from in tight. Holtby eats it up. Laich is called for tripping Pouliot in the Capitals' right wing corner. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
16:51: After a mad dash down the slot by Malkin, Kunitz has a chance to the left of the crease but put sit ooff the side of the net.
16:44: The Penguins strike. Kunitz recovers his rebound behind the cage and plays it off the right wall to Malkin above the right circle. Malkin back peddles towards the center point and deals to Crosby on the right half wall. Crosby rips a wrister through a few body and by the blocker of Holtby. Holtby didn't see that puck at all. Malkin and Kunitz each get minors. Penguins 3-1.
16:35: Yet another penalty. Adams is hit from behind near the benches by Cam Schilling. That's an interference minor. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
15:12: Perron lifts a wrister from the left circle which Holtby fights off.
14:35: The Schilling minor expires. The Penguins were really flat with that chance.
14:10: Spaling chops a shot from the left circle. Holtby scoops it up.
13:32: Despres is flattend by Oveckin on the left half wall by Despres.
12:48: Yet another Capitals penalty. Chimera is called for holding Downie near the Penguins' net. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
12:28: Malkin lifts a wrister from above the left circle. Holtby fights it off.
12:04: The Penguins get a little sloppy with the puck in their own zone and nearly pay a price. After Letang fumbles a bad pass by Malkin in the Penguins' own slot. Backstrom tries to jam in a forehand wraparound from the right of the cage. Fleury holds it out.
11:01: Martin chops a slaper from the center point. Holtby kicks it out.
10:54: Perron whacks a one-timer from above the left circle. Holtby fights it off.
10:31: Yet another penalty. Martin is nabbed for cross checking Laich near the Penguins crease. Lapierre, Adams, Scuderi and Letang take the ice.
10:27: After Brouwer beats Lapierre on the draw in the left circle, Ovechkin hammers a one-timer from above the left circle wide on the near side.
9:10: A slaper by Green from center point is fought off by Fleury despite traffic.
8:38: Niskanen whacks a one-timer from the left half wall wide of the cage.
8:31: Martin's minor is killed. The Capitals had a few chances there.
7:18: Wilson blasts Ehrhoff with a big hit near the Penguins' left wing corner. Scuderi comes over and gives Wilson a partial hip check in response. Play is halted. Wilson gets cross checking and roughing minors. Scuderi gets a roughing minor. The Penguins will get another power play. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
5:58: Off a feed by Letang, Pouiot whacks a one-timer from the right half wall. Alzner blocks it and is hobbled a bit.
5:18: Play returns to five on five.
4:58: Green launches a shot from the right point. Fleury traps it against his chest.
4:05: More penalties! Sutter dances in off the right wing, gets hooked up by Schilling and play is blown dead. That's a hooking minor. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
2:42: Somehow, the Penguins, who have the man advantage, allow a two-on-none to the Capitals. After Letang fumbles a puck at the left point, it takes a crazy carom to the Penguins' blue line where Ward picks it up and walks in on a breakaway. With Chimera trailing, Ward goes forehand and is denied by Fleury. What in the world was that?
2:05: The Schilling minor is killed. The Penguins had nothing going on there.
0:58: The mach tot he penalty box continues. Comeau gives Ovechkin a little tap on the left hand. That's a slashing minor. Lapierre, Adams, Scuderi and Letang take the ice.
0:27: Carlson chops a slapper from the high slot which misses the mark.
0:16: A one-timer by Carlson from above the left circle is blocked.
0:05: Carlson whacks another one-timer from center point wide of the cage.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Capitals 1.
-This has turned into a special teams battle. Officials are calling this very tight. We wonder if the NHL has issued an edict to officials to get the quotas up for power plays.
-The Penguins have a 20-11 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins lead in shot attempts, 39-32.
-Sutter leads the game with five shots.
-Green leads the game with three shots.
-Letang leads the game with 18:50 of ice time.
-Backstrom leads the Capitals with 17:01 of ice time.
-The Capitals have a 23-17 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).
-Backstrom is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Crosby is 8 for 12 (67 percent).
-Carlson, Alzner and Scuderi each lead the game with two blocked shots.
18:58: The Comeau minor is killed with minimal threat from the Capitals after the intermission.
18:25: Martin whacks a slapper from the left point which gets blocked.
17:05: Ovechkin pushes the puck up the left wing, levels out and and releases a wrister which Fleury eats up. Letang, who had pinched in on the previous rush up ice, back check and tries to shoulder Ovechkin but barely staggers him. Letang has Ovehkin in his sites.
15:51: The Capitals make it a one-goal game. Chimera cats up the right wing, gains the offensvi zone and levesl otu to the high slot. He allows Brouwer to drive to the net and feathers a pass to Brower. Brouwer gets behind Scuderi and re-directs a puck on net. Fleury makes the save initially but can't deny Brouwer on the rebound. What a crafty play by Chimera. Scuderi and Despres didn't appear to have good gaps as the Capitals entered the offensive zone. Chimera and Alzner get assists. Penguins 3-2.
15:07: A wrister by Lapierre from the left circle misses the cage.
13:43: Niskanen whips a quick shot/pass from the right half wall tot he crease. Laich is above the blue paint and taps it wide.
13:30: Hornqvist golfs a slapper from the right wing which Holtby fends off.
13:19: Laich and Despres race for a puck. Despres tries to initate contact but
12:48: The Penguins get back a two-goal lead. Malkin steals a puck in the neutral zone off Evgeny Kuznetsov and rushes into the offensive zone. Malkin challenge Brooks Orpik one-on-one in the slot and punches a wrister off he end boards. Comeau gets to the rebound to the right of he cage and plays it to the crease where Kunitz is able to plunk it into the cage. Comeau and Malkin each get assist. Penguins 4-2.
11:27: Ward chips and chases a puck up the right wing wall. He has some space to work with but Sutter chases him down, smacks him into the boards and steals the puck. Great play.
11:10: Carlson chucks a wrister from the center point which gets deflected wide.
10:36: Crosby pressures Niskanen into an offensive zone turnover on the left wing wall of the offensive zone. He tries to shuffle a backhander on net while sliding down but is denied by Holtby. Niskanen crashes into the cage and dislodges it.
9:54: Ovechkin dances in off the left wing and snaps off a wrister which Fleury boots out. Ward tries to jam in the rebound but can't get a stick on it.
8:57: Letang chases down a puck on the left wing wall and throws it on net. Holtby punches it out of play.
8:05: Brouwer snap off a break out pass from his own zone as the Penguins make a line change. Kuznetsov appears to have a breakaway as he gets a step on Despres but officials blow play dead offside.
7:00: A one-timer by Ehrhoff from the left point misses the mark and ends up clearing the offensive zone.
5:07: Orpik golfs a slapper from the left point. Fleury gloves it.
4:15: Green floats a wrister from the center point wide of the cage.
3:43: A wrister by Schilling above the left circle is wide of the cage. Ward makes contact with Fleury and And Fleury tumbles back. Fleury gives Ward a punch ot the left leg. Play is halted. Fleury is called for roughing. Downie will serve the minor. This is a big two minutes. Lapierre, Adams, Martin and Letang take the ice.
3:34: The Capitals take advantage immediately. Brouwer beats Lapierre in the left circle and gets the puck to Carlson above the right circle. Carlson slides it to Ovechkin above the left circle. Ovechkin uncorks a one-timer by a sliding block of Ovechkin and under Fleury's blocker. What a shot. That's the second time Brouwer beat Lapierre on a defensive zone draw leading to a set play designed to get Ovechkin a shot. Carlson and Brower get assists. Penguins 4-3.
2:25: After the Penguins ice the puck, the Capitals call a timeout to get organized. Holtby is pulled for an extra attacker.
2:02: Taking a feed above the left circle, Ovechkin rockets a slapper from above the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
0:58: The Penguins ice the puck and call a timeout to get organized.
0:47: Ovechkin hammers a one-timer from the left point wide of the cage.
0:26: A wrister by Carlson from the center point is off the mark.
0:08: Comeau chases down a pck on the left wing and backhands off the side of the cage.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 4, Capitals 3.\
-First things first, there didn't appear to be any sort of postgame update on Rob Scuderi. He did not record a shift in the final 12:48 of play. As far as we can ascertain, no one on site in Washington asked about Scuderi so there isn't any sort official word if he is injured or note. He was shaken up late in the first period after blocking a shot but played a full compliment of shifts in the second period and even af ew in the third before leaving the game. One would presume he is injured but again, no official word from the team.
-The game was fun but odd. The Penguins got off to fast start and dominated five-on-five play before the special teams took over. The second period became a special teams festival with so many power plays for each team. Things settled down in the third period and as a result, the game had a pretty thrilling end.
-As we stated in our pregame commentary, this was a big game for the simple fact it appeared to give the Penguins a boost of confidence against a team they had trouble scoring against, let alone beat. They run up four goals against a goaltender who had limited them to one goal in their three previous meetings. They broke through a few mental barriers tonight.
-Evgeni Malkin was a force tonight. He created so many things off the rush and appeared to overwhelm the Capitals at times. Last week, Malkin said things would be all right with the Penguins in the midst of an offensive funk. Over the past three games, he's backed up those words with his play.
-Special teams play really dominated this contest. There were 12 power plays total in this game. Twelve! After that ridiculous brawl in the Penguins' bench, officials called everything tight. We don't know if it was a reaction to that fray on the bench or there was some sort of edict from the league to officials to increase the number of power plays, but the standard for penalties like hooking or holding was a lot tighter than it has been in recent months.
-The Penguins didn't exactly do a lot with the six power plays they saw. They did get one goal off a rebound but beyond that, they looked inept most of the night. The two-on-none breakaway they allowed to Joel Ward might have been the low point of the season for the power play.
-Chris Kunitz talked yesterday about producing more. He came through with an assist setting up a power-play by Sidney Crosby and scored what proved to be the game-winning goal. It's only one game. He needs to do this more consistently. But it's a first step in the right direction.
-Christian Ehrhoff looked pretty sharp for someone who had missed 12 games. He logged 18:34 of ice time including 4:36 on the penalty kill. While no one will confuse him with Darius Kasparaitis but he was engaged physically and went to the high-traffic areas.
-On one instance, Ehrhoff had the high-traffic area brought to him by big Tom Wilson who threw a big and high hit at him. Ehrhoff bounced off that pretty well.
-Like the previous two games of this regular season series, this one was chippy. The brawl on the Penguins' bench was out of control and it was punctuated by a lot of little individual battles and several big hits. If these two teams meet in the postseason, it will get ugly.
-Simon Despres had a rough game physically. He ended up on his butt quite a few times thanks to some big hits by the Capitals. He'll probably need a few ice bags in the morning.
-Brandon Sutter was pretty sharp. He was a big part of the Penguins killing five of the Capitals' power plays. He had a short-handed goal and put quite a few shots on net. Maybe the Daniel Winnik trade or rumors involving him have sparked him.
-Alex Ovechkin was one of those Capitals who knocked over Despres with a big hit. He was dangerous physically and on the scoreboard. The puck looked like it was sizzling when it came off his stick tonight.
-Troy Brouwer was a big asset for the Capitals. He won a key faceoff which led to Ovechkin's power-play goal. He scored a key goal and threw a few hits.
-The Penguins lead in shot on net, 26-24.
-The Capitals led in attempted shots, 56-40.
-Sutter and Ovechkin each led the game with five shots.
-Kris Letang led the game with 29:53 of ice time.
-Nicklas Backstrom led the Capitals with 24:16 of ice time.
-The Capitals dominated faceoffs, 39-26 (60 percent).
-Backstrom was 12 for 20 (60 percent).
-Crosby was 10 for 18 (56 percent).
-Derrick Pouliot led the game with three blocked shots.
-Karl Alzner, Mike Green and John Carlson each led the game with two blocked shots.