In a critical Game 3 for the Pittsburgh Penguins they outplayed the Caps for the most part beating them to lose pucks, but also got a little help from the refs. They outshot the Caps 42-23 and that was mostly due to the lack of powerplays for Washington. The Pens were playing desperation hockey in a must-win situation for their team, and they came through.
The Iron Curtain
Simeon Varlamov played another outstanding game for the Caps last night turning away 39 shots. Try and ask Alex Ovechkin about his goaltender and he will stop you in the middle of your question, “I don’t want to talk about him.” He’s probably the only person in the hockey world NOT talking about Varlamov as he’s been the story of the playoffs so far. Constant pressure forced him to make some key saves as the Pens continue to drive to the net like Kamakazi pilots. One of these pilots included Evgeni Malkin who crosschecked Varly in the back almost similar to Chris Kunitz’s from last game.
Al Koken is considered to be the Nostradamus of the Washington Capitals after making the Sergei Fedorov predicition in Game 7 of Round 1. Before last night’s game, Koken made a bold statement saying the Pens have been getting away with some calls and the NHL maybe wants to extend the series as well as their ratings. Going into Mellon Arena for the first time in the series there was no doubt the calls would be going the way of the Pens.
Now I don’t like to bicker about the refs–unless I’m playing–but there was plenty of missed calls last night. For example Boyd Gordon had the puck in the corner in the D-zone and went to make a pass behind the net. he was tripped up by Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin was able to intercept the pass and make a wrap-around attempt on Varlamov. These types of infractions need to be called I don’t care if you are the poster-boy of the NHL.
When Ovechkin was asked about the refs he declined to comment but a few opinions slipped through,
“They only have two penalties,” said Ovie. “It’s kind of a joke I think.”
The Caps had a total of 2 powerplays–something they rely on very heavily to produce scoring–while the Pens got a total of 7. There were definitely some good calls however, like Milan Jurcina’s delay of game for pushing off the net and Brian Pothier’s delay of game in OT. But the calls on Mike Green and Simeon Varlamov for slashing were completely ridiculous.
Outplayed and Outworked
Regardless of the reffing situation, the Caps did not play their game last night. They did not record 10 shots in any of the 4 periods last night for the first time in this year’s playoffs. The Pens were able to get the puck deep and keep pressure on the Capitals’ defense. They bottled up the neutral zone and made it hard for the Caps to develop rushes up the ice–another area the Caps rely on heavily to produce offense.
The Caps were getting beat to lose pucks in the D-zone, and weren’t anticipating developing plays. They were reacting to the Penguins instead of anticipating. The line of Steckel/Laich/Bradley was almost invisible last night, and were not as dominate as the previous 2 games in the series.
The game last night started and ended with a weak goal. Only 1:23 into the game, Marc-Andre Fleury went to play the puck behind the net, dropped his stick, watched the puck redirect into the slot to a waiting Ovechkin who buried it into the empty net with 3 sprawling Penguins surrounding the play. It was a perfect start to the game for the Caps, but they failed to score again until the end of the 3rd period.
More than halfway into the overtime period the Penguins won an offensive zone faceoff–something that rarely happens to the Caps. The puck came to Chris Letang at the point who ripped a clapper. The puck deflected off Shoane Morrisonn’s skate and past Varlamov for the game winning goal.
* Evgeni Malkin *
** Chris Letang **
*** Simeon Varlamov ***