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#CapsPens Postgame Notebook: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Caps find a way in must-win Game 3, special teams come through for Washington, Alzner returns to action.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk spent several minutes of his Monday morning discussing his recent play with reporters ahead of Monday's night's Game 3. When asked to assess his own performance, Shattenkirk was typically candid.

"Not well," said Shattenkirk. "Last game was really bad. But I'm focused on tonight; that's all I can worry about. I know I'm my own hardest critic, so I'm not really listening to a lot of what people are saying. But I know it hasn't been good. So it's a chance, luckily, for me to improve every game. I think the most important thing for me to do is to have fun, and I think that that's something I've lost along the way here." 

What could be more fun than scoring a game-winning goal in overtime? 
Video: Shattenkirk's OT goal leads Caps past Pens in Game 3
Let's preface by saying that the only reason Monday's Game 3 went into overtime was because the Caps managed to squander a two-goal lead with two minutes remaining in regulation in what was an absolute must-win game for them. So when Shattenkirk scored the game-winner on a Washington power play at 3:13 of overtime, the goal became the difference between being down 2-1 in this best-of-seven-series, as the Capitals are now, versus being in a 3-0 canyon, as they would have been with a loss on Monday.

After the game, Shattenkirk was asked if he was back to having fun. 

"Yeah," he responded. "Tonight I felt like I was back in that groove. I was physical early, which I think helped drive my game, and I was skating with the puck. I think we all were having fun. I think that was the best part about it. We knew that we were playing well, and when you're doing that, that's when everyone starts to enjoy the game." 
Video: Shattenkirk meets media after OT winner in Game 3
Shattenkirk came to Washington in a Feb. 27 trade with the St. Louis Blues, and the goal was the first with the Caps during the playoffs. It was also his first career power-play goal in the playoffs, first career playoff overtime goal and first career game-winner in the postseason. 

With his Game 3 game-winner, Shattenkirk becomes the third defenseman in Washington franchise history to score a game-winning overtime goal in the playoffs. Rod Langway did so against the New York Rangers on April 25, 1990 and Mike Green victimized the Rangers on May 4, 2013. 

Men Down - Penguins captain Sidney Crosby left Monday's game early in the first period after taking a crosscheck to the face from former teammate Matt Niskanen. Crosby had to be helped to his feet and off the ice, and he did not return.

The Penguins offered no postgame updates as to his condition, nor did they do so for Conor Sheary, who left the game after absorbing a hard, high and inadvertent hit from teammate Patric Hornqvist early in the second period. Hornqvist was trying to hit Caps center Lars Eller, who deftly duck out of the way, leaving Sheary to take the brunt of the collision.

Niskanen was given a five-minute crosschecking major and a game misconduct. The incident left the Pens without their captain and arguably the best player in the game, while the Caps were without their top defenseman in terms of ice time per game. 

"That's tough," said Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury of the loss of Crosby. "He is our best player and our leader. It's tough to see him go down like this. Hopefully, it's not too bad. Everybody had to step up tonight and I thought we battled hard to the end, and had a chance to win."

On Wednesday, Pens coach Mike Sullivan informed media that both Crosby and Sheary have concussions. Sheary skated on his own before Pittsburgh's optional Wednesday practice, but Crozby has been ruled out of Wednesday's Game 4.
Video: Caps players talk after a 3-2 OT win in Game 3
Special Delivery -
Washington won the special teams battle in Monday's Game 3, scoring twice on the power play and successfully snuffing out all five Pittsburgh power plays in the contest.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the game's first goal - and the first and thus far only goal scored by either side in the first period of any game in this series - on a five-on-three Washington power play in the first, and it got Shattenkirk's game-winner while Trevor Daley was in the box for holding Marcus Johansson in overtime.

"I think our breakouts and entries weren't that sharp tonight, and we never got set up," says Pens defenseman Justin Schultz. "I thought we got a couple of good looks when we did get it set up. We were moving it around pretty well and Phil [Kessel] had some good looks over there, and [Evgeni Malkin] had a couple of good shots, too. We'll just learn from it and be better next game." 

The Capitals didn't have any power play opportunities in Game 1, but they've gone 3-for-10 with the extra man in the series and their 29.6 percent success rate in the playoffs is tops among the eight remaining teams. Pittsburgh's 24 percent extra-man success rate ranks second among the eight remaining clubs. 
Video: Coach Trotz talks after a 3-2 OT/win in Game 3
Back On The Beam - For the Caps, perhaps the best news - aside from the victory, of course - from Game 3 was the play of goaltender Braden Holtby. He made a textbook pokecheck early in the first frame to deny a scoring chance and added strong stops on bids from Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl in the waning minutes of the period. Daniel Winnik also helped Holtby out with a timely sweep of the crease to prevent a certain Rust power-play goal, using the shaft of his stick to do so. 

Holtby stopped all 15 shots he faced - including six during three Penguins power play opportunities - in the middle stanza. He surrendered two goals in the final two minutes of regulation, both in six-on-five situations with Fleury pulled for an extra attacker. Holtby never saw Malkin's goal, and Schultz's deflected off T.J. Oshie and got past him. 

"It always helps when there is some action to get into it," says Holtby of seeing some difficult chances in the first period on Monday. "That was probably the biggest challenge of the first two games. It was kind of a lot of nothing, and then something really good. It's tough for a goalie, but it's not an excuse. We've been like that a lot of times this year, where there are not many shots with the way that we play. I just need to prepare for that more, but it was nice to get into it from the start." 

Most importantly, Holtby held the Pens to two or fewer goals against. Dating back to the last half dozen games of the regular season, it's just the second time in the last 14 games the Pens have not scored three or more goals.

Back In The Saddle Again - Caps defenseman Karl Alzner returned to the Washington lineup on Monday after a six-game absence because of an upper body injury. Alzner took warmups and was a late insertion into the Caps' lineup, as Washington went with seven defensemen and 11 forwards for the first time since Jan. 19, 2013, which was opening night of the lockout-abbreviated 2012-13 season.

When Niskanen went out for the night early in the game, the Caps still had six blueliners with which to work. Alzner ended up with 21:34 in ice time on the night, second only to John Carlson (25:35) among Washington defensemen. Alzner logged 5:25 of shorthanded ice time in the game, too. 

"I didn't expect him to play as much, but he played very, very well," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "He did a really good job. From that standpoint, good on us to have seven [defensemen]." 

Before missing the six postseason games this spring, Alzner had played 599 consecutive regular season and playoff games for Washington, a streak that dated back to spring of 2010. It had been quite a while since he was on the sidelines for as much as two weeks. 

"The first little bit was a little weird," says Alzner of his return. "I had so much adrenaline going that I was feeling a little bit jumpy. But as the second [period] and the third came, I got a chance to kill some penalties and feel the puck, and I felt fine. So it was nice." 

Early Times - In each of the first two games of this series, Pittsburgh scored the game's first goal between the start of the second period and the two-minute mark of that frame. Crosby scored 12 seconds into the second period of Game 1 to give the Pens a 1-0 lead, and Matt Cullen tallied a shorthanded goal to put the Pens on top at 1:15 of the second period in Game 2.

Sure enough, the Pens scored again early in the second period of Game 3, getting a Chris Kunitz lamplighter just 65 seconds into the period, a goal that appeared to tie the game at 1-1. But Washington issued a successful coach's challenge, alleging that Kunitz interfered with Holtby before the puck went in, and the goal was overturned.

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps in ice time … Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov led Washington with five shots on net each, and Kuznetsov led the way with nine shot attempts … Ovechkin and Brooks Orpik led Washington with four hits each … Jay Beagle won six of nine draws (67%). 

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