Five by Five
Prior to Game 4, the Penguins were determined to get scoring from players other than Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
– which is exactly what they got Friday night with five goals from five different players, including Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko, Crosby and Max Talbot.
“It’s good to see a number of guys contribute on the score sheet,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You need that.”
Gonchar started off the Penguins’ scoring with an unassisted power-play goal 3:55 into the first period to tie the score at 1-1. Gonchar rocketed one of his signature slap shots from above the far circle. The shot surpassed both defenseman Milan Jurcina and netminder Simeon Varlamov as it hit the back of the net.
The second goal was netted by Bill Guerin who started the play by chipping a pass from the Capitals blue line to Crosby, who was barreling down the slot. Crosby sent a pair of shots on net and Guerin arrived late to lift the puck over Varlamov.
“Sid had a great chance there and a second chance and it was the third chance that finally got by (Varlamov),” Bylsma explained. “That’s what we have been focusing on doing, getting pucks there. Billy crashed the crease there and got the rebound and put it in.”
“I was happy for Guerin,” Crosby added. “He is a goal scorer. He makes a lot of things happen in the high slot. Tonight he crashed the net there for that goal, but he’s just a guy who is strong. He wins a lot of battles. He’s responsible out there and he brings a lot of experience.”
Fedotenko netted the Penguins’ third goal, his second goal in as many games. Jordan Staal
freed the puck up above the blue line and Fedotenko carried it down the slot and released a shot that hit Varlamov’s glove and fell into the net.
It was Crosby who netted the fourth goal with help from Miroslav Satan, who did the grunt work on the play. Satan patiently carried the puck into the zone with Crosby on a two-on-one rush and coaxed Varlamov and defenseman John Erskine to the near side. He then sent a perfect pass across the slot onto Crosby’s stick. Crosby had only to tap it into the empty cage to earn his ninth goal of the playoffs.
“Miro put it right on my stick,” Crosby said. “I didn’t have to do much. I just went to the net, put my stick on the ice and tried to find the puck. He put it right on my tape. It was a great pass.”
The Penguins’ game-clinching fifth goal was scored with the help of Fedotenko, who freed the puck up in the Penguins end and passed it up the far boards. Talbot used his speed to chase the puck down, surpassed Washington’s defense and launched a shot past Varlamov’s stick side.
“Max scored that big goal and we were up by two,” Crosby said. “That gave us a big jump.”
Talbot, however, gave all of the credit to Fedotenko for setting up the play.
“Feds did a great play on that goal,” Talbot said. “It was a lucky shot if I can say, I was aiming for the net just trying to shoot as hard as I could. It felt pretty good to score that goal and Feds made a good play.”
All in all, the Penguins received goals from five different players and points from nine different players, including multi-point games from four different players (Crosby 1G-1A, Fedotenko 1G-1A, Guerin 1G-1A, Rob Scuderi 2A)Sarge Out
The Penguins had a scare in the first period after veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar took a hard knee-to-knee hit from fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin which left Gonchar out of play for the remainder of the game. As a result, the Penguins were forced to quickly adapt their game in Gonchar’s absence.
“The other five defensemen stepped up in the game and they played great,” Talbot said.
“Gonchar was out fairly early in the first period,” Scuderi explained. “We had to spread the ice time over five guys, but we’re all in shape and we’re all prepared for it.”
Gonchar’s status is unknown for Saturday’s Game 5 showdown. However, the Penguins battled through the first 56 games of the season without Gonchar, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. So the team will try to compensate for their All-Star blueliner.
You don’t get to replace No. 55, but we have depth at the position of defense for a reason. You can’t replace him, but we expect this sort of thing going into the playoffs and the lineup that we have will be able to get the job done. - Dan Bylsma
“You don’t get to replace No. 55, but we have depth at the position of defense for a reason,” Bylsma said. “You can’t replace him, but we expect this sort of thing going into the playoffs and the lineup that we have will be able to get the job done.”
“He is a great player who is a big part of our team,” defenseman Kris Letang
said. “He plays a big part on the power play especially. We are going to have to step up but we still have a great team.”Solving Varlamov
Going into Game 4, the Penguins were confident that if they continued to pepper Simeon Varlamov with shots then success would follow. As promised, the Penguins kept the pressure on Varlamov, tallying 28 shots in the game. They were rewarded for their efforts with five goals.
“Varlamov struggled,” Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau admitted. “He’s human.“
Varlamov, who has played spectacular between the pipes this postseason, may have allowed five goals, but the Penguins believe he played a great game nonetheless.
“He is a good goaltender, he still made some huge saves all game long,” Talbot said.
“Varlamov has been unbelievable,” Scuderi said. “Even though he looked human tonight I don’t think we are going to count on him playing the same in the next game. We still have to keep getting to the net and keep getting pucks to the net.”
The consensus in the Penguins locker room is that Varlamov is an outstanding young goaltender who is hard to crack, but with persistence it is possible.
“He continues to play well, he made some big saves tonight,” Bylsma said. “The goalie has played outstanding, you just need to stay on it. There’s not a magic formula on goaltenders. You’re looking for rebounds. He’s a very aggressive goaltender and he comes out and he’s done a great job of that against the shooters in the first four games. We need to try to corral those rebounds.
“I’m sure he’ll come out with a big game (Saturday) night for Game 5. It’s not any secret, we are putting pucks and bodies to the net and we’re looking for rebounds. That’s how you get to goalies.”The Curse of First
In each of the four games in the series so far, whichever team has scored the first goal of the game has also gone on to lose that contest. Matt Cooke
, however, doesn’t afford much weight to the first-goal-curse theory.
“I don’t think it matters who scores first,” Cooke said. “At least, it hasn’t mattered up to this point in the series.”
“I think that just shows that the we have two offensive teams on the ice and no matter who has the first goal it’s not done yet,” netminder Marc-Andre Fleury
remarked. “Teams keep going and throwing pucks and some get a goal.”