Ovechkin: 'It was mentally a very important win for us'
It was exactly the type of game you would expect when the NHL's top team hosts the defending Stanley Cup champion.
Tense. Physical. Thrilling. It was all those things and more.
What was completely unexpected, though, was the way it finished - on a shootout goal by Mike Kunble, a bang-and-crash winger who had never scored the shootout (0 for 4 career).
Knuble's fourth round knockout (yes, that was a head fake, I asked) delivered a 4-3 win, bumped the Caps' record to 3-0-0 against the Penguins this season and increased their point total to 108, equaling the franchise record they set last season.
*Here's Alex Ovechkin on the win:
The two-time MVP notched an assist and improved to 2 for 8 in the shootout (and 13 for 46 all time) with a nice move on Marc Andre-Fleury in the shootout
*What more does Jose Theodore have to do in order to be named the playoff starter? Really? The guy is 17-0-2 in his last 19 games. That's only a franchise record and the longest streak without a regulation loss in a decade.
Tonight, he stopped all 17 shots he faced in the first period. That, in my opinion, was just as important as Alexander Semin's unassisted shorthanded goal and/or Knuble's shootout tally.
Two saves, in particular, stand out. The pad stop on Ruslan Fedotenko late in the first period and the blocker save on Jordan Staal late in the third. Those types of saves win playoff games.
*The Caps' Eastern Conference clinching scenario, via the team:
The Capitals could clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in club history with a win against Carolina and a New Jersey loss (in regulation or overtime/shootout) to the New York Rangers. If that happened Washington would clinch the top seed in the East before any other team in the conference clinched a playoff spot. One team in the West -Chicago -could clinch a playoff spot tomorrow with a win at Columbus and a Calgary loss at the New York Islanders.
A Caps win or overtime loss would give the team the club record in points (currently tied with 108); with a win they would match the club record for wins with their 50th. A win would also give the team the club record for road wins (currently tied with 22).
*The Caps have outscored the Penguins 7-1 in the third period this season.
*With an assist, Nicklas Backstrom is one point from fifth Cap to ever record a 90 point season.
*From my seat 200 feet above the ice surface, that looked like the most physical Caps' game I've seen in a while. And the stat sheet would seem to back that up. The teams combined for 64 hits, including a game high-nine by Shaone Morrisonn, who got the hard hat tonight.
The biggest hit, though, was one that wasn't. In the first period, Brooks Orpik tried to decapitate Brendan Morrison behind the net. Morrison, however, ducked at the last moment and Orpik hit the wall.
*When Boudreau was asked about the officiating, he cracked a smile and said, "No don't try." As in, don't try to get him in trouble with the league. Power plays were 5 to 1 in favor of the Pens. I have a trouble believing Pittsburgh took only one penalty all night.
*Semin was named the No. 1 star -- and deservedly so -- after scoring a dominant shift on a third period penalty kill that ended with unassisted shorthanded goal that tied the game 2-2.
*Finally, join Craig Laughlin on Friday at the Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar and Grill for a fundraiser to benefit Children's Hospital. Chris Cooley from the Redskins is going to be there along with several former Caps.
For more info, click here.
That's it from me tonight. I'll check in from RBC Center in a few hours.
March 25, 2010; 12:03 AM ET
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