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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Capitals 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
Pittsburgh finally solved Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov, lighting up the rookie netminder for five goals, and evened their second-round series with Washington at 2-2 with a 5-3 victory.

With the home sweep of the Capitals, the Penguins climbed out of a two-game hole and have turned the series into a best-of-three contest. This is now anybody’s series – all bets are off.

It was a complete performance from a determined Penguins team. Five different players chipped in a goal and nine recorded points. The Capitals still couldn’t contain the Penguins’ feisty forecheck and Pittsburgh looked confident and unstoppable.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news for the Penguins as All-Star defenseman Sergei Gonchar was lost after a knee-to-knee collision with Alex Ovechkin. Gonchar left towards the end of the first period and did not return. His status is unknown for Saturday night’s Game 5 in Washington.

The five remaining defensemen rotated shifts with each other and logged a ton of ice time. In was a gutsy performance from the Penguins’ defensive corps in the final 45-plus minutes of the game.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Alex Ovechkin disappeared, at least as much as the game's most dominant scorer can, and so did all the magic Simeon Varlamov was working. Suddenly, the Washington Capitals are in a familiar position against rival Pittsburgh, losing their grip on a playoff series that seemed to be theirs.

The Penguins shook off an opening-minute Washington goal, scored three times in less than 12 minutes in the first period against a suddenly vulnerable Varlamov and beat the Capitals 5-3 Friday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinal at 2.

 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Brooks Orpik checked Alex Ovechkin into the boards (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: Forecheck
The Penguins once again established a strong forecheck in the Washington zone. The Capitals have had difficulty all series in their end when Pittsburgh is cycling and winning puck battles along the boards. True to form, the Penguins dominated possession time and frustrated the Capitals all night.

What Could Have Gone Better: Losing Gonchar
A scary moment occurred in the near corner of the Penguins zone in the first period when defenseman Sergei Gonchar collided with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin in a knee-to-knee hit. Gonchar spun around before landing hard on the ice. He stayed down for a while and needed assistance to the dressing room. Gonchar did not return and the Penguins skated with only five blueliners for the rest of the game. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
This could have gone to a lot of people considering the Penguins had five different goal scorers and nine different players recording points. However, Rob Scuderi put forth one of his best efforts of the season at both ends of the ice, evidenced by his game-high plus-3 rating. Offensively, he chipped in two assists.

On the defensive front, Scuderi played 23:24 minutes (second most on the team) and was regularly matched up with sniper Alex Ovechkin. Scuderi held Ovechkin to two shots and no points (Ovechkin did tally an assist but Scuderi wasn’t on the ice at the time).
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
The Capitals struck first with a goal 36 seconds after the opening faceoff. Alexander Semin intercepted a Pittsburgh pass in the neutral zone and sent the puck up ice to Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom’s slap shot from the above the near circle eluded Marc-Andre Fleury. Washington 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Pittsburgh tied the game with a power-play goal from Sergei Gonchar four minutes into the first period. Gonchar skated the puck into the Washington zone, used the Capitals defenseman as a screen and ripped a slap shot through the five-hole of goaltender Simeon Varlamov. Pittsburgh 1, Washington 1.

The Penguins took the lead thanks to a great effort from veteran forward Bill Guerin. The Capitals tried to clear the puck off the glass from their own zone. Guerin grabbed the puck and flipped it to Sidney Crosby, who was all alone in the slot. Crosby tried to go backhand but his initial shot and rebound attempt were both denied by Varlamov. However, Guerin came swooping in to lift the puck over Varlamov and into the netting. Pittsburgh 2, Washington 1.

The Penguins converted on a four-on-four chance to add to their lead. Ruslan Fedotenko carried the puck into the high slot and sent a shot towards the goal. Varlamov threw out his glove but the puck bounced off of his mitt and floated into the goal. Pittsburgh 3, Washington 1.

The Capitals cut into the Penguins’ lead with a goal with five minutes left in the second period. Defenseman Mike Green skated the puck through a few Penguins and his wrist shot hit the post and rested in the paint. Washington captain Chris Clark was there to bat in the rebound. Pittsburgh 3, Washington 2.

The Penguins added a tally early in the third period. Guerin made another fantastic play from the Penguins zone. He chipped the puck high off the glass beyond the Capitals and to Miroslav Satan, who had a two-on-one with Crosby. Satan patiently held the puck until the last second. Then he fed a pass through defenseman John Erskine’s legs and to Crosby, who tapped in the score. Pittsburgh 4, Washington 2.

The Capitals scored their third goal on Milan Jurcina’s shorthanded score. Washington had the puck in Pittsburgh’s zone and a cluster of bodies were falling in front of Fleury. Brooks Orpik was pushed into his own goaltender and Jurcina’s shot from the far point found its way into the cage. Pittsburgh 4, Washington 3.

Pittsburgh buried its fifth goal of the game with five minutes remaining in regulation. Washington was pressuring in the Penguins zone when Fedotenko intercepted the puck. He patiently waited before pushing the puck off the boards and ahead to Max Talbot. Talbot streaked down the far side and unleashed a shot that beat Varlamov on the near side. Pittsburgh 5, Washington 3.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
The Penguins used the same lineup from their Game 3 victory, scratching forwards Petr Sykora and Eric Godard and defenseman Philippe Boucher.

Super Star lines:
Sidney Crosby: 1G, 1A, +1, 18:06 minutes, 4 shots, 1 hit
Alex Ovechkin: 1A, 25:22 minutes, 2 shots, 2 hits
Evgeni Malkin: -1, 20:05 minutes, 4 shots, 2 hits
Alexander Semin: 1A, -3, 21:21 minutes, 4 shots, 3 hits

Following the game the Penguins boarded a late-night flight to Washington. The plane didn’t take off until 11:30 p.m. and landed in Washington just after midnight. The team boarded a bus and finally checked into the hotel at 1 a.m. for some much deserved sleep.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh evened its second-round series with Washington, 2-2, and is 4-1 at Mellon Arena in the postseason.

> Head coach Dan Bylsma has a career postseason record of 6-4.

> Scoring Summary:
WSH, N.Backstrom (2), 0:36 1st period: Capitals 1, Penguins 0
PIT, S.Gonchar PP (2), 3:55 1st period: Penguins 1, Capitals 1
PIT, B.Guerin (3), 10:47 1st period: Penguins 2, Capitals 1
PIT, R.Fedotenko (3), 15:25 1st period: Penguins 3, Capitals 1
WSH, C.Clark (1), 15:08 2nd period: Penguins 3, Capitals 2
PIT, S.Crosby (9), 4:16 3rd period: Penguins 4, Capitals 2
WSH, M.Jurcina SH (2), 6:23 3rd period: Penguins 4, Capitals 3
PIT, M.Talbot (2), 14:46 3rd period: Penguins 5, Capitals 3

> Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s Art Ross champion, was scoreless but still has 12 points in the postseason (5G-7A).

> Sidney Crosby notched a goal and assist to give him 16 total postseason points (9G-7A), the most in the NHL. Crosby has 10 points (7G-3A) in his last five games and has a point in nine of 10 playoff games.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves in the winning effort.

> Ruslan Fedotenko chipped in a goal and an assist. He has five points (3G-2A) in his last five games.

> Bill Guerin tallied a goal and an assist for his sixth and seventh point (3G-4A) of the postseason.

> Rob Scuderi recorded two assists and a game-high plus-3 rating.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 112th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,132. The Penguins have sold out every game in the past two seasons. Pittsburgh is 73-30-9 during that span.

> 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry was at Mellon Arena to watch the game.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. S.Crosby, PIT
2. R.Scuderi, PIT
3. M.Talbot, PIT
"Now we’re back in the series. We accomplished our goal
but we have to take care of one on the road if we want to
have a chance in this series."
- Rob Scuderi
 

 



Author: Sam Kasan

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