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Well, at least the game didn't go into double OT. That was about the only good news to be had following Saturday's 3-2 Washington victory in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Penguins lit up the scoreboard first with a Sidney Crosby goal 4:09 into the first period, just like NBC drew it up. That lead would last all of about nine minutes, as Dave Steckel tied it for the Caps, becoming the latest role player to beat Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs. Steckel had just eight regular-season goals, and this was his first in the playoffs. About four minutes later, Alex Ovechkin put Washington into the driver's seat with a 5-on-3 goal folowing penalties to Sergei Gonchar and Matt Cooke.

The Penguins had 1:48 left on a power play to start the second period, but once again came up empty. Counting this game, they are now one for their last 23 on power plays, and that's a number that simply has nowhere to go but up if this team has any hope of going any further.

Despite their struggles, Pittsburgh still managed to finish the second period in a tie game, following yet another huge goal from Mark Eaton, his third of the postseason. In fact, the Penguins nearly had the lead if not for an amazing save by Caps goalie Simeon Varmalov on Sidney Crosby that the NBC broadcasters were calling the best of the 2009 playoffs.

Less than two minutes into the final period, Tomas Fleischmann beat Fleury after being set up by Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the game's final goal. To quote Stephen A.Smith, "Quite frankly", the Penguins' defense was on vacation on this one. The Pens would go on to squander two more power plays in the period, leaving the coaching staff with some serious thinking to do before Monday night's rematch.

Despite somewhat of an uneven effort, the Penguins certainly had their chances in a road game played in front of an energized, hostile audience. The Sykora/Satan debate continued to be a wash, Evgeni Malkin was for the most part a non-factor, and the defense did not help Fleury to the best of their abilities. Conversely, Varlamov made some huge saves, the Caps converted one of their limited power play opportunities, and they got goals from both superstars and role players. They deserved the victory, much as it pains me to say it.

The series reconvenes on Monday night at the House That Cell Phones Built, with a start shortly after 7 PM. Early reports have indicated that there wasn't a huge surplus of Pens fans on hand for Saturday's game due to the short lead time as well as the Capitals' efforts to discourage such activity, but hopefully that will change in the next 48 hours. Until then, the Penguins' newly-minted permanent coach has a little strategizing to do if he hopes to leave Washington with a split.

Capitals 3, Penguins 2 [ESPN]
Empty Netters Recap [PG]
Pens Fans Attempt to Distract Capitals With Funny Faces [Deadspin]

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jmarinara said...

Power play was awful. Just awful.

The defense needs to wake up a bit if they hope to contain the caps.

Fluery can play better, but I'm not worried.

Remember, this would have been a completely different game if their goalie (can't pronounce or even spell that name) wasn't Peterangelo like on that unbelievable save. It was not a complete bias at all to call that the save of the playoffs because, well, it was.

THe complete bias is in constantly reffering to Ovechkin as "the great one". *rolls eyes*

Koz said...

The powerplay is atrocious. Not scoring is bad enough, but it doesn't even generate shots or reasonable chances. 0-5 with 6 shots with this personnel is nauseating.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, the Penguins fans will not be able to overwhelm the Capitals fans in attendance in DC this year. The Capitals fan base has grown considerably due to the Capitals success and the failure of every other DC sports team (Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Maryland Terrapins football and basketball, and Georgetown basketball). The popularity means more season ticket holders, and season ticket holders get first priority on playoff tickets. No Penguins fan is going to want to buy season tickets to watch a team they don't root for.

Meadowbrookalum1 said...

I love the girl's face sitting behind the coach.

Steve said...

Our Russian players better start showing up. It's bad enough when Sykora and/or Satan are stroking off like ususal but when Malkin takes the day off along with Gonchar playing his typical pansy game, then they won't win many games regardless of how well Crosby, MAF and the 3rd line plays.

Someone needs to tell these guys if they don't start scoring, their families will be sent to Siberia. That's probably the only way to motivate Russian players.