Too many penalties cost the Capitals a chance to take a commanding lead in their second-round series with the Penguins. They gave up just one power-play goal, but having to spend a lot of time killing penalties wore Washington down in a 3-2 overtime loss.
"I think four [penalties] you can get away with and, when we got the fifth one, I thought, 'Now we're playing with fire,' " coach Bruce Boudreau said. "And, when we got the sixth one, I thought, 'OK, now we're in the danger zone.' "
Washington took seven all told, giving up one power-play goal.
"You can't give the opportunities we gave them on the power play," said center David Steckel, who spent more than a third of his 20:42 of ice time killing penalties.
"We need to stay out of the box. We're doing our best to draw them, and they're doing their best. We took some stupid ones tonight."
The Capitals killed one penalty in overtime after defenseman Brian Pothier shot the puck over the glass from his end.
Steckel wasn't complaining of fatigue, but he was victimized in the faceoff circle by Penguins center Sidney Crosby on the winning goal.
The draw came in the circle to the left of Washington goaltender Simeon Varlamov. The Penguins planned a set play they work on often, getting the puck to defenseman Kris Letang at the right point.
Steckel has been matched against Crosby much of the series and had had success against him in faceoffs. He won 13 of his first 20 draws in the game.
Not this time.
"I've been changing up whether I go down quick or whether I don't," Steckel said. "The linesmen for the most part did a great job of making him come in, and I wasn't expecting him to come in and stop.
"I knew they were setting up a play. It was tic-tac-toe. He just got underneath my stick and beat me fair and square, got it to the wall."
Crosby got it to defenseman Mark Eaton, who set up Letang for a winning one-timer.
As a result of 14 minutes of total penalties (compared to just 4 to Pens) Caps really looked tired. DC Sports Bog, May 7, 2009:
"It was tough to control the puck with the way the ice was here tonight, but I thought about halfway through the game you could really, really see, especially their defensemen, were getting really, really tired," Brooks Orpik told me. "We kept chipping it behind them, and I don't know what the hits stat was, but we really, really did a number on their defensemen going back for the puck. And you could tell, especially in the third period, they were really, really tired."
The hits stat, for the record, was 44-31, in favor of the Pens. It's harder to quantify the hands-on-hips moments. Both teams were doing it, and maybe you just notice it more when a team seems back on its heels, but from the second period on there were moments--before faceoffs, leaving the ice for intermissions--when the body language clearly seemed to favor the Penguins.
By Dan Rosen, NHL.com, May 7, 2009:
"It's a recurring theme now," said Capitals center David Steckel, who's spent a lot of time in this series killing off those penalties. "We just have to stay out of the box. When you have a potent power play like they do it's just bound to not end well for us. We obviously took some stupid ones."
Killing penalties as often as Washington has been has a cumulative effect on the team and the game plan. Washington used seven forwards on the penalty kill Monday, but four defensemen got the majority of the workload on the back end.
Tom Poti, who is already fighting sore groins, played a series-high 8:08 on the penalty kill. Milan Jurcina was on the PK for 5:16, Morrisonn for 5:08 and Mike Green for 4:45. Steckel also played 7:11, the most any forward has played so far in this series.
"It's more on the defensemen and the work they have to do," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "On penalties, you don't have the chance to be aggressive as a defenseman or as a team offensively."
There's the other problem for the Caps. They played well in the first 10-15 minutes of Wednesday's game, but they hadn't yet committed a penalty.
Once they did, the Penguins' offensive onslaught began.
Jurcina started the second period in the box after being called for delay of game, an indisputable penalty, at 19:34 of the first period. Green was called for slashing Jordan Staal at 10:02 and goaltender Simeon Varlamov was whistled for slashing Malkin at 19:16.
In total, the Caps had to kill nearly 4 1/2 minutes of penalties in the second period. When a team has to spend that much time killing penalties, it kills their offensive flow.
In the second period, the Capitals were outshot 15-4 and outscored 1-0.
"We have to step up a little bit more, skate a little bit more and move our legs a little bit more because we can't take this many penalties against a good team like Pittsburgh," Nicklas Backstrom said.
It was more of the same in the third as Alex Ovechkin went off for interfering with Sidney Crosby 4:54 into the period and Alexander Semin was in the box when Malkin scored his goal after he was called for hooking Malkin at 14:10.
Brian Pothier shot the puck over the glass 2:15 into the overtime to put the Caps on the penalty kill in the extra session.
The Capitals bristled when the word "undisciplined" came up. They didn't think they earned all of their penalties in Game 3 and that made for some raised eyebrows, including two from Ovechkin, who called the fact that the Capitals were called for seven penalties while Pittsburgh was whistled for only two "a joke."
Chris Kunitz was sure he'd get a suspension. By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 7, 2009:
Left winger Chris Kunitz was surprised when the NHL fined him for cross-checking Washington goalie Simeon Varlamov in the head during the final minute of Game 2 in the Penguins' second-round playoff series.
Not because he didn't expect punishment, but because he expected it to be more severe.
Kunitz said yesterday that while he has no real recollection of the incident, he suspected after watching a tape of it that he might be forced to sit out a game.
"It looks bad [on video]," he said. "I'm very fortunate, probably, that I didn't get a game suspension [because of a league crackdown on hits to the head]."
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