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Caps Squander an Opportunity

The Caps coughed up the puck at the blueline too many times to count, took six straight penalties at one point, and were outshot by 19.

But they still had a chance to take a 3-0 series lead tonight at Mellon Arena thanks to a clutch goal by Nicklas Backstrom and another scintillating performance by Simeon Varlamov.

The rookie goaltender made 39 saves, but he was helpless to stop Kris Letang's shot in overtime. Letang's blast from the point ricocheted off Shaone Morrisonn's stick before eluding a netminder who deserved a better fate than a 3-2 loss.

"He was outstanding," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Varlamov. "When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don't come around every day."

But the Caps squandered Varlamov's effort and now it's a series again.

We've got a ton going into tomorrow's paper and it's late, so I'll keep it short and sweet tonight.

Penalty Disparity
Before the game, there was some bickering about the officiating. Well, there was more of the same tonight after the Capitals were whistled for seven infractions to the Penguins' two.

"They have only two penalties," Ovechkin said. "It's kind of a joke, I think."

Boudreau added: "As far as penalties go, I hope I never hear them complain about penalties again, picks, and everything else. I think we might have deserved the penalties, but they sure as hell deserved more than they got."

Perhaps. But the team that has the puck the most is going to draw more penalties. Tonight that team was the Penguins.

Fedorov Update
Sergei Fedorov went down clutching his ribs after a collision with Hal Gill in the second period. He returned in the third period, but was moving slowly after the game with a wrap around his chest. I'll get a status update tomorrow.

Nylander Sits
Michael Nylander returned to the lineup tonight, but skated only one shift in the third period and none in overtime. For most of the night, he looked like someone who hadn't played in since Game 2 of the previous series.

Semin Slumping
After scoring five goals against the Rangers, Semin is still looking for his first against the Pens. Tonight, he contributed on Backstrom's power-play goal late, but the Caps need the Semin from the previous round. He was also in the penalty box for hooking when Evgeni Malkin scored the go-ahead goal with 4:59 left to play.

Speaking of Malkin
He had his best game of the series. Not even close. He snapped a five-game goal drought, launched nine shots on net in 29:38 and earned the first star. If this was the beginning of Malkin getting back on track, that could be very bad news for the Caps.

The Caps are off tomorrow, but there will be media availability in the late afternoon. So I'll have an update then.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  May 7, 2009; 12:37 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Boudreau's Postgame Quotes
Next: Morning Reading List: Game 3 Aftermath



Posted by: eorr | May 7, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

This is fine. This just brings the series clincher back to VC.

The boys are obviously embarrassed about this game. They will come back ready to devastate for 60 minutes, playing the physical aggressive game they have been winning with. Stecks told the story in a post-game interview: they stopped forechecking. The more aggressive forechecking team draws more penalties, forces more turnovers, makes more scoring opportunities.

Just as the Caps are embarrassed and will have more fire in the belly for Game 4, the Gweens have to be a little disappointed to see that even when they play perfect hockey, and we play poorly, they still can only barely beat us. They know what's up. This is over.

Their Game 3 "Comeback" is not the same thing as our Game 3 resurrection against the rags. Our 4-0 shutout in their own house (where their franchise player gets pulled after 2 periods) was a little stiffer of a shot to the chin than this OT squeaker.

The Cindy Cry fan club will claim they are going to do to us what we just did to the rags, but in their hearts they know they wont.

It's done in 5.

Let's go Caps.

Posted by: large23220 | May 7, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

The Penguins have been outplaying the Caps for pretty much the whole series. There's no way the Caps will win in 5.

Posted by: SC87 | May 7, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

. . . won't dignify that. . .

They had a crummy game tonight but had their opportunities. We looked tired. We let them skate. Coulda gone the other way in OT if not for the penalties -- Varly's probably blaming himself for his interference move. Green continues to make mistakes.

Bring up Aucoin. Rest and focus. If we can take the next one, I feel pretty good about Saturday night. Back to back ooms large here.

Posted by: Sonyask | May 7, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

ooms very large


Posted by: Sonyask | May 7, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

I really gotta say, we out hustled the Pens when it mattered in game one and two. We didn't tonight and it showed. Varlamov played his ass off again and no one could give him any help. We desperately need Erskine back.

That being said, the Pens got some lucky bounces tonight. Luck favors the prepared, and they were more prepared. Caps need to come out Friday night and take it to them.

I said this to my friends earlier and I saw it in an earlier post, we just won 5 games in a row. We were bound to drop one at some point. Sure 3-0 would have been nice, but I think a 3-1 set was inevitable.

Either way, we get back on track and we don't let them out hustle us in game 4. Caps game take game four 3-1. We bring it home to Washington and we win 4-1.

The Pens are a good team but they are not better than us. Especially with the way that Varlamov is playing (much better than fleury).


Posted by: eorr | May 7, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

The Caps have to get back to playing hard nosed hockey and take a road game with a good old fashioned road style game on Friday. Otherwise this series is a tossup

Posted by: diner99 | May 7, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse


Is anyone else here?


Posted by: eorr | May 7, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

For the first poster, I agree that one bad performance doesn't wreck a series, but any longtime Caps fan ought to be a little wary about calling a series against the Pens. We've been burned by two game leads before.

That said, I am far from panicky about tonight. Yeah, the boys played bad, but you had to know that the law of averages was bound to work against us in the luck department sooner or later. The officiating was predictably one sided in favor of the team down two games, and we came in with no room for error. We've got to take one of the two in the back-to-back set though.

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 1:28 AM | Report abuse

"The Penguins have been outplaying the Caps for pretty much the whole series."
Posted by: SC87

I agree. This is because they are playing a full 60 minutes and we only play a period here and a period there. It frustrates me. Why do they have so many breakdowns and inconsistencies?

I used to feel that we deserved a better goalie than what we had in the past few years. Now that we have a great goalie, I don't think the team deserves him. They sure didn't tonight. Their undisciplined penalties and spotty playing puts the whole burden on poor Varly. He held it to one goal as long as he could--heroically so; yet his efforts were squandered.

Posted by: caraveli | May 7, 2009 1:34 AM | Report abuse

caraveli, you make it sound like we're the Rangers being saved by Lundqvist for two games. Really, we haven't played that bad. These are two teams who are better at offense than defense and it's showing on both sides. I didn't think all our penalties were that bad. Varly's slash? Please. And as BB said, you think there weren't some non-calls in there for the Pens? Malkin's trip in game is the worst penalty of the series so far.

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Malkin's trip in game is the worst penalty of the series so far.

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 1:41 AM

Malkin's trip in game 2 that should read

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 1:42 AM | Report abuse

JS26121820: It almost felt like Varly was our Lundquist tonight. If we had won, it would have been his steal. Yes, BB & Ovie talked about unfair penalties but didn't really complained. They acknowledged that we played badly. I guess I am frustrated that they squandered what looked like a sure victory in the beginning. And it didn't help when I looked at NHL's website and saw Crosby's face in two of the league leaders' categories. What a bummer!

Posted by: caraveli | May 7, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I won't deny we played like crap. The turnovers in our zone were embarassing to no end. I just don't think it's obvious that Pittsburgh is a better team and I thought it was a little harsh to say the team didn't deserve Varly.

Like I said above, you knew the deck was gonna be stacked against us with the officials cause they want a long series. We were gonna have to really earn it to win this game, and we didn't do that. I'm confident Friday will be a better effort.

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, you are right. I am just letting off some steam because I am so disappointed. I hope that this loss re-energizes the boys. Bad games have a way of doing this.

Posted by: caraveli | May 7, 2009 1:57 AM | Report abuse

I think I just saw Mike Green on the side of my milk carton

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 2:08 AM | Report abuse

I don't think we have been outplayed in this series. We got outplayed tonight for sure, never could get going. One team having 17 more minutes of power play time over only 3 games is going to affect some stats, so don't read as much into them.

Given how badly we were out-shot, and how we could never get our lines rolling right having to kill off 6 straight penalties I'm not too worried seeing as how it took a deflected shot in OT to beat us tonight. As many chances as they are upset about missing we certainly had our fair share that we blew as well.

Hope Boudreau works the media like the Pens did going into tonight so we can get the refs attention. It worked for them.

Pothier was really bad by the end of the game. Hopefully he bounces back. I'd rather call up Aucoin than dress Circles again.

I'll laugh if we end up with a 7-2 PP advantage any time in this series and see how that game looks. Some of the penalties were just dumb plays on our part, 2 or 3 were kinda weak in my opinion.

Posted by: Davethecapsfan | May 7, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Dave, that pretty much summed up what I was trying to say except you're a better writer :)

Posted by: JS26121820 | May 7, 2009 2:12 AM | Report abuse

I expect a cleaner Game 4.

Posted by: richmondphil | May 7, 2009 2:53 AM | Report abuse

six straight pittsburgh power plays. what a joke.

Posted by: nwilson2 | May 7, 2009 3:15 AM | Report abuse

I take solace in the fact that I am no longer scared of the other team scoring on any given shot. I'm now more surprised when a shot gets past Varly.

It's the first time in a long time (/ever?) that I've been able to say that about a Caps goalie.

Posted by: Raber | May 7, 2009 3:15 AM | Report abuse

and for the record, Nylander shouldn't play another shift in a Capitals uniform. he was Schultz-esque tonight.

Posted by: nwilson2 | May 7, 2009 3:19 AM | Report abuse

A basketball ref throwing calls for gambling was a "push" as stars draw calls if the seas don't part, like they are Moses. They can do a flying side kick and draw a penalty, and one or whatever. Anouncers rave that he could have still made the shot while kicking two defenders in the face at the same time. I almost thought hockey was a haven for relatively fair officiating.

You don't pull a man off the field of play for no reason do you? At least they seemed to keep it relatively even. In the vagueness of the thing while being entertained by the occasional boxing time out. But here we had it. The darlings of league, last years finalist, looking at a possible sweep (if for no other reason than Varlimov's surprising play). This completely threw the league higher ups off guard. The Penguins can't be swept after the Rangers pushed a game seven. Heck the Caps had to come from behind on the AHL team on roids. But not a sweep of Sydney the Greats team, no.

Six straight penalties on the Caps. "You hit my fist with your face." Over and over again. Jurcina gets cross checked in the back straight into the net and gets called for interferance. Sydney flops and rolls 10 yds into the net and Ovie gets called. So blatant, so biased, so exactly the same type play. We were actually lucky to get the last call. Late in match. Final minute, no way they actualy tie it up. Besides can't let it end with six straight penalties on the Caps. Well they did even it up... Called the Caps for a penalty in overtime.

Posted by: chavez66 | May 7, 2009 3:48 AM | Report abuse

It was the first time in series when Pens had more GOOD scoring chances than Caps.. Nylander DID nothing as expected and so will Jeffry "Manbag" Schultz - keep em out of this team at least until next regular season.
Well, Caps lost in OT and have a better chance of winning the next game and pretty much sealing the series. If not 4-1, than 4-2.

Posted by: Hazz | May 7, 2009 5:20 AM | Report abuse

That play where Fedorov was injured looked like a severe Butt-ending (or stabbing). It carries an automatic major penalty and game misconduct. It was relatively hidden to me as intent. I saw a guy swing around with his arm wide and smack someone in the face, looking unintentional by means of attack. But why was he swinging wildly. He too was near the boards. Feds came in hard but looked like he was avoiding the check. Like "what's the point?" cause the puck had been passed. But the Penguin was standing there, facing the board with his stick out wedged in the corner. Like the woolie mamoth that was killed in "20,000 B.C." Federov got speared in the ribs. But mostly because he avoided the check or boarding. Like a no look pass is intentional that could have been.

Just something I noticed in the rules but, it could be added with that slash with intent to dismember as majors that should have been called on the Penguins.

Posted by: chavez66 | May 7, 2009 5:23 AM | Report abuse

And it was a good decision by BB to keep Feds out of faceoffs after he hurt his arm.

Posted by: Hazz | May 7, 2009 5:27 AM | Report abuse

@ chavez66,

That was a really hard one to notice for refs and I thought it was the arm but there was a stick contact with his ribs. NHL are gonna probably review it and say that it wasn't intentional.

Posted by: Hazz | May 7, 2009 5:39 AM | Report abuse

Ovechkin gave an outstanding effort both with and without the puck and words can't describe Varlamov's clutch goaltending.

Don't know what to say about the officiating other than it's the NHL. Refs blow calls but are _usually_ fair in terms of even-up calls. Makes one wonder if the officials weren't giving Gabby and the rest some sort of 'attitude adjustment'? But why?

Caps cohesion broke down. There were too many bad passes and not enough finished checks. Get the puck in deep and forecheck. Look how the second pens goal started, Flash didn't finish his check when he had the chance. When you finish your checks good things happen. Brashear may not be the most gifted player but he is a pleasure to watch because he gets it. He'll chip the puck into the corner and chase it.

Defense must play their man. Crosby and Malkin are magicians with the puck and the caps are caught too many times waving their sticks at air. Forget the puck, lock on to that silly penguin logo on their jersey and check through the man. Look how Ovi knocked Malkin off the puck during the delayed penalty in the 3rd. That's how you play the man!

Posted by: bindatype | May 7, 2009 6:02 AM | Report abuse

They must win Friday IMO. I don't like their chances Saturday even at home with Varly playing the 2nd of a back to back, something he struggles with.

Posted by: RiceandGravy | May 7, 2009 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Please tell me Varly spent 20 minutes yelling at his teammates last night. What a waste.

Posted by: Tony-Tony-Tony | May 7, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

I think they did do an excellent job of clearing the puck out from in front of the net. Gave Varly time to get out of those pileups, grab his stick and reset. None of those bang in goal opportunities like Cindy had in Game 2.

Posted by: hockeyweasel | May 7, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

It's all my fault! I broke with my usual routine last night and actually fell asleep during the game. I apologize and I won't let it happen again.

Caps were sloppy after Ovie's goal. It looked like Pens were on a PP for most of the game. Oh wait.....they were!

Posted by: AmyS1 | May 7, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

We just came up short. The Penguins got a lucky defelection in OT. We will live again on Friday. And hopefully on Sat. and Close out this series.

Posted by: kyle_woodruff | May 7, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Caps forwards except Kozlov and Ovechkin played very timid on the offensive end which allowed the Pens far too much time to aggressively move the puck up ice. I don't know what the Caps strategy was but the forechecking was nonexistent and Malkin, Crosby, and Gonchar were allowed to move through the neutral zone with no attempts to slow them down. No way you can play a "prevent" defense which is what the Caps were doing the last 2 periods.

It looked like the Caps were playing for OT and hoping Varly would bail them out (which he did for basically the entire game). The Caps are going to need to put forth a lot better effort in Game 4, particularly in keeping the puck in the Pens end and in forechecking, or this series will be 2-2. I also think the Caps miss Erskine's toughness in the scrums behind the net as only Jurcina showed any willingness to put his body. The Pens consistently won the fight for the pucks and were able to create scoring chances in the slot. Very disappointed with the effort and the Pens clearly were the better team last night.

Anyone who thinks the refs decided the game with all of the minors on the Caps is ignoring the fact that the Penguins always had the puck and forced the Caps into two delay of game penalties and another interference penalty or two. Sure, the refs could have called another penalty or two on the Pens for the cross checks, but the Caps generated little offensive zone pressure to draw penalties.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 7, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Awful game by the Caps. Please call up Aucoin and sit Nylander.

Posted by: FancyDan | May 7, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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