May 3, 2009

Penguins Vs Capitals 05/02/2009 EC Semifinal Game 1 Review

Tomas Fleischmann scores winning goal in EC Semifinals Game 1.
Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo.

Penguins 2 - Capitals 3

Game 1 of the second round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, was not the high scoring game many thought it might be. However, the threat was always there, mostly from the Washington side.

With four of the league's top ten point producers in a game (Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom), regular season or playoff, it would be realistic to expect a lot of pucks to be hitting the back of the net. Luckily for Pittsburgh, four or five shots that beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury hit pipe, just missing adding to the Caps side of the scoreboard.

It was the Penguins' Sidney Crosby however, that scored first. At 13:50 into the first period, Washington's third line guys David Steckel and Matt Bradley, highly successful scoring chance producers in the playoffs, evened up the score with the help of Brooks Laich. It was Steckel's first goal in the playoffs. The Capitals got another goal a few minutes later, while on a rare (for the Caps) 5 on 3 powerplay. Washington cycled the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone left to right and then back the other way, Nicklas Backstrom to Alexander Semin to Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin, who was left unguarded at the bottom of the left faceoff circle, pounded in the Caps' second goal.

Nearly thirteen minutes into the second period, Pittsburgh's defenseman Mark Eaton got one through the glove of netminder Simeon Varlamov. About five minutes later, Varlamov stopped a shot to the wide open side of Washington's net by Crosby, with a stick save. You've got to see the video of what was immediately dubbed "the save of the playoffs" . If that shot had gone in, the outcome of the game could have been quite different.

Just under two minutes into the third period, Tomas Fleischmann scored the game winner for the home team. Semin sent the puck from the point to Backstrom. Backstrom shuttled the puck to the other side of the net, where Fleischman was waiting at the edge of the crease to send the game winner over Fleury.

The win was Washington's fourth straight in the playoffs. The 21 year old Varlamov remains solid in net, to the surprise of anyone not familiar with him. It feels good to be ahead in the series so far. The Caps always seem to be on the comeback trail, but not this time. At least, not yet. With just one game down, it's not time to get cocky. Not just yet.

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