May 12, 2009

Capitals Vs Penguins 05/11/2009 EC Semifinal Game 6 Review

Capitals celebrate Game 6 winning goal with David Steckel on May 11, 2009.
Photo by Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo.

Capitals 5 - Penguins 4 OT

The Washington Capitals overtime win versus the Penguins in Pittsburgh last night took Caps fans on an emotional roller coaster ride, before ending with incredible relief. This was a must win game for Washington, who were behind in the series, three games to two.

After not playing at their potential for most of their time on the ice this series, the Capitals had improved significantly in Saturday night's loss in Washington, DC. In the first period of this one, it wasn't looking so good. They were playing in a panicky style that didn't exactly fill one with confidence. Penguins forward Bill Guerin got the puck by netminder Simeon Varlamov about six minutes into the game. Luckily, the Caps' goalie had a much better game than the score shows. Washington only mustered 5 shots on goal, while Varlamov was very busy stopping 17 of the 18 shots Pittsburgh got on goal in the first frame.

The Capitals smoothed out their play by the second period. It's hard to imagine that the shots on goal totals for this period were only 6 for Washington and 7 for Pittsburgh. Both teams were apparently more accurate. Mike Green should get an assist on the Caps' first goal, because he fired a shot that hit Sidney Crosby. Crosby was able to clear the puck from the Penguins' end before heading for the bench to recover. Shaone Morrisonn dumped it right back in though, and Alex Ovechkin sent a rink wide pass to Viktor Kozlov, who snapped it by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 6:27. About eight minutes later, Alexander Semin was hauled down to the ice in the offensive zone, but the delayed penalty call wasn't needed. Semin quickly got back up and skated the puck around the back of the net. He passed it to Sergei Fedorov, and the rebound from Fedorov's shot was popped in by Tomas Fleischmann. Less than a minute before the end of the period, Mark Eaton scored the tying goal.

Kris Letang put the Pens on top at 4:40 into the third period, with a power play goal. About one minute later, Washington got their lone power play goal. Ovechkin passed the puck to Semin. Somehow Brooks Laich got a something on it, deflecting it in from the top of the crease, while under pressure from a defender and with his back to the net. Then at 6:07, Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin combined with Viktor Kozlov, for Kozlov's second goal of the game. The officiating, while still not terribly consistent, had evened out considerably over the last couple games. By about halfway through the third period, it had started to get a bit one sided again, in the Penguins favor. But it was Mike Green's failure to clear the puck from the Capitals' end late in regulation, that led to Sidney Crosby's tying goal. The hopes of Caps fans had been threatened yet again.

The referees put away their whistles in the overtime period. Both goalies made a few good saves before the sudden death ending. Right off a draw in Pittsburgh's end, Matt Bradley sent the puck to Brooks Laich. David Steckel redirected Laich's shot into the net at 6:22, giving Washington the win and evening the series at three games each. This line has worked very well for the Capitals, and at very critical times.

The Caps won the game with only 24 shots, compared to the Pens' 42 shots on goal. It's a good thing Varlamov was having a good night. Washington may not have been at their best at the start of the game, but they ramped it up as it went along. They never gave up hope, and they gave it their all, right to the very end. Determination and unyielding effort is key in winning playoff games. The Caps will need to show that again tomorrow night, when they play Game 7 of their semifinal series at home. Whoever wins that game, moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

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