Assistant general manager Bill Guerin gives his three impressions from the booth of the Penguins’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
1. Special teams. They scored on theirs. We didn’t. That’s the big one.
2. I think we could have started the game better. They came after us and got momentum early. I felt we did a good job sticking to the game plan and keeping ourselves in it.
3. Fleury played excellent. He played excellent.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box.
1. The hatred boiled over between these two rivals in the third period when Alex Ovechkin whacked Kris Letang in the skate as they raced for a puck and he went down to the ice, caught an edge and slammed back-first – hard – into the boards. After a few long, scary moments, Letang was able to get up and skate off the ice on his own. The play galvanized both the Pens AND the crowd. Letang’s teammates immediately came to his defense, as Chris Kunitz and David Perron tried to challenge Ovechkin on the next shift and the Pens’ entire fourth line went after their counterparts on the shift after that. And even though the Pens were the ones who ended up on the penalty kill, I loved that they came to the defense of their star blueliner and stood up for their teammate – who was able to return to action a few minutes later. But things got out of control after that, as the Pens ended up taking three straight penalties – giving the Caps a 5-on-3 for almost two minutes – and Washington made them pay with the late winner. So while the Pens did respond and compete for each other, they didn’t channel that angry energy and feed off the crowd in the right way. They’ve got to find a way to stay levelheaded and focused in those incredibly emotional situations.
2. The Pens’ special teams didn’t come through on the scoresheet when they needed it. Granted, although a two-man disadvantage is incredibly difficult to defend, the Pens have been able to come up with kills in that situation all season long. They weren’t able to tonight with the game on the line late in regulation. Then, the Pens got a power play of their own with just over two minutes left to play and didn’t convert it. Coach Mike Johnston loaded up the unit – putting Letang, Derrick Pouliot, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kunitz together on the ice after – but they didn’t find a way to get the puck past Braden Holtby.
3. Marc-Andre Fleury kept the Pens in this game as he had to bail out his teammates a lot over the course of the evening – especially early. After a tremendous first few shifts where the Pens were all over the Caps and had them back on their heels with speed, Pittsburgh didn’t manage the puck as well as they could have. They either kept turning it over or couldn’t handle it, and forced their goaltender to make the tough saves. Fleury was up to the task. There wasn’t a lot he could do on either goal (the third was an empty-netter), as Ovechkin scored on a breakaway as the result of a bad change, and the other came on a gorgeous cross-ice, backdoor play on that 3-on-5 disadvantage. The score could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for Fleury.