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Posted at 12:36 AM ET, 12/24/2010

Caps fall to Penguins, 3-2, in shootout

By Katie Carrera

It's hard to feel like the seventh round of a shootout was a fitting ending to what was 65 minutes of playoff-style hockey, with the Capitals and Penguins exchanging a multitude of hits and exciting plays (even if there weren't seven goals in this one).

But that's the way it wrapped up, with Pascal Dupuis scoring the game-winning marker in a 3-2 victory for Pittsburgh as the 14th player to try his luck in the shootout. Alex Ovechkin and Kris Letang scored on each team's first chance in the tie-break session but the next 11 skaters would fail to convert. While it wasn't the outcome they wanted, the method was something the Capitals, for the most part, were pleased with. Also, it's hard to ask for more as a prelude to the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.

"If they can play like that every night I'll be happy," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They had passion, they played arguably, right now, the best team in the league...to a standstill. Whether it's a moral victory or whatever, you'd love the two points, of course, but I thought we played very well and it was one very hard-earned point."

Perhaps the most difficult part of this game to accept for Washington was nearly a game-winning goal in overtime by defenseman Mike Green, who had what Boudreau dubbed "his best game in a long time."

Green waited for Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury to stretch out on the ice before feeding the puck toward the open cage and just under the goaltender's glove. The puck never escaped the confines of Fleury's mitt though, and even if it appeared as though it crossed the goal line there was no conclusive video evidence to show that it did.

Asked if he thought if the play was a goal, Green replied, stone-faced: "One hundred percent. I'm not going to sleep."


With or without that play, though, it was noticeably, as Boudreau said, one of Green's better games in recent memory.

"He played good defensively and yet he jumped into the play and made things happen offensively," Boudreau said. "You could see his reaction when he scored; it was like the weight of the world came off his shoulders and he looked like a different guy after that. Save for the fact that you can't see through leather, we probably would have won the game."

If you missed Green's reaction to his shot from the slot on the power play in the second period that rocketed over Fleury's glove to tie the game at 1, he just sighed with his arms dropped to his sides. That tally at the 13:43 mark of the second ended a 14-game goal-scoring drought as the two-time Norris Trophy candidate had not scored since Nov. 14 against Atlanta.

Green, who at times needed some help getting over the bench in the third period, played a game-high 34:03 and took a physical pounding from the Penguins at numerous times, finished with a team-high six shots on goal and eight hits of his own. He blocked five shots as well.

--The Capitals finished 1 for 6 on the power play against the Penguins and their top-rated penalty kill. But that statistic doesn't fully explain that Washington couldn't convert on two separate 5-on-3 chances, including one that was 1:51 long just prior to Green's goal.

--Whether he actually prevented the puck from crossing the line on Green's chance in overtime or not, Fleury played a tremendously large role in this game and win for Pittsburgh. He made some improbable, instinctual saves as Washington was out-shooting and out-chancing his teammates early on.

"I think we played great. I think all four lines did [a] great job," Alex Ovechkin said. "We don't make some mistakes, finish checks, getting [pucks] deep, we have lots of shots. I know Fleury played unbelievable today. They are great players; [when] they have a chance, they use it. We have to use our chances."

--Boudreau said Tom Poti is day-to-day with a head injury after he left the game following a high stick to the head by Evgeni Malkin just 3:34 into the contest.

--Caught a glimpse of Boyd Gordon, who has missed the past five games with an injury -- the nature of which the team would not disclose -- after the contest and the veteran forward was walking with a boot on his right foot. Gordon also dealt with a knee injury earlier this season.

--The NHL's mandated two-day holiday break begins tomorrow. Teams will not practice, travel or have any media availability but we'll still have blog updates to get you through all that family time.

By Katie Carrera  | December 24, 2010; 12:36 AM ET
Categories:  Michal Neuvirth, Mike Green, Pittsburgh Penguins  
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Next: Fantastic Fleury saves the Pens

Comments

If you look at the Eastern Conference standings, the teams in the top 8 are all at least 6 games over .500(the Caps are 8).

Only one other team in the East is over .500 and that is Carolina who is 1 game over .500. So it really looks like, barring one team making a huge run in the 2nd half, that it will be a 9 team race for 8 spots, with Carolina being a heavy underdog(I don't think many people consider a large threat to go on a big run and they may even be sellers at the deadline).

It is completely different than the Western Conference which has 13 teams at least three games over .500.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 24, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

I hope our guys can benefit from the two day mandated Christmas break. Rest up from all the illness and injuries.

I was also trying to count up our guys and figure out who's on injured reserve. I'm sure Schultz is on IR, along with Boyd Gordon and Bradley (due to the broken finger). I'm not sure if King's on or off IR. I assume we're limited to 23 guys on the active roster. I counted up 7 defensemen, including Sloan, who I assume is active even if he hasn't played in a while since we usually keep on spare D man. There's two goalies and 14 forwards.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | December 24, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

@sgm3

And then in the East, Carolina in 9th is 6 points behind 8th place Boston. So they have a little ways to go before making the Top 8.

Meanwhile, Boston has a really high goal differential for an 8th place team. TB has a negative differential and they're the league leaders in the South East.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | December 24, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Great game. I was hoping the Caps would get up for this one. They remind me of early Pens, just need a little more experience in big games. They need to learn what Philly has yet to learn, that you don't get Crosby or Malkin mad, or you are going to pay the price. As soon as Alex tried to run Geno, I knew the game was over. It ended up closer than I thought it would be, but I honestly felt sure the Pens would win, which I did not feel before the game. If the Flyers' and Caps' fans really want to win, and not just try satisfy their blood lust, they would stage a love-in with Sid: he wouldn't know what to do. Fortunately, the Caps and Flyers fans are not very smart, and all us Pens' fans thank you for that.

Posted by: rbjwashpost | December 24, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

@rb, as soon as Ovi tried? I'm pretty sure he laid an perfectly clean hit on Malkin and that Malkin was rattled afterwards. I wouldn't say it was bad at all.

And of course the Pens fans never boo Ovi. Nope, I've never heard that (rolls eyes). Do you think for once we could get a fan from another team on here without a holier than thou attitude?

Posted by: dfe1 | December 24, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse

Let's go Caps!

This is exactly an experience required for the playoffs - game against a hot goalie and a team, that converts its chances.
You can't score from the point then storm the crease, create traffic win battles along the boards and get PP.
Let's see now, how this experience will be used against Habs.
I'm looking for the Classics. It will be a huge game.

Posted by: Michael01a | December 24, 2010 3:45 AM | Report abuse

Correction to your article, Poti was injured by his own man, not Malkin. "Locker" admitted such during the game after watching the replay.

Posted by: 54phighting | December 24, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

On the Pens second goal, didn't someone fail to clear? Of course our two love bird announcers did not notice nor did we see a replay.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | December 24, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Carlson got checked into Neuvy on the 2nd goal. He was fighting some Pen for crease position, and he got lifted off his skates with a cross-check. Borderline checking call that close to the crease.

What I do not like about this game is how well the Pens executed a game plan to disrupt the Caps run-and-gun system. They went after OV, Green, Backis, and Semin by finishing their checks, getting them into a who can outhit whom game -- for the most part. Green played well, considering he was target #1. The Caps kept trying to rush up ice for pretty passing and one-timer goals, whereas the Pens were trying for possession in the Caps zone. One system is fun for the regular season and the other works well for the playoffs. My conclusion is that the Caps system is built for the President's not Lord Stanley's Cup. It's time to replace BB with a caoch who can install a real playoff style system and discipline his star players to commit to such a system.

Another systemic issue is OV on the point. A team with Green and Carlson should have OV on the half wall for higher percentage shots. Let Green or Carlson qb the pp. OV is a sniper, not a pp qb.

One other note, Hannan played really good defense last night. The more I watch this guy, the happier I am with the trade. Now if the Caps could find someone to replace Poti who has played horribly lately.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | December 24, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

It was good game. The crowd was really loud BUT those who booed an injured player being helped off the ice should be ashamed of themselves. It does not matter what jersey the player is wearing, booing an inured player is classless. If you booed the injured Pens player, I hope Santa brings you coal for Christmas.

Posted by: NovaCath | December 24, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I am p....ed we lost. Coming into the year, we were the elite team. We need to start playing like one and win games at home against teams playing their 3rd game in 4 nights. Not pleased.

Caps, perform better or we will need to make some serious trades.

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | December 24, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"RBJ", youre a moron and your post is evidence of it. Malkin, aside from taking stupid penalties and looking like a retard in the shootout, was a NON FACTOR in the game. After he got the bum's rush from OV he was useless, which is often the case in his entire career with Pitt. He's Semin without the goals...

Posted by: opticlguy | December 24, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I heard today on 106.7 the fan that Ovi is injured. he has a strained hammie; perhaps that is part of the reason he's not scoring goals like he did last year I also heard Green is hurt as well. Green didn't play like he was hurt but Ovi and Semin did

Posted by: rclow | December 24, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

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