Saturday, February 3, 2007

Offense is Offensive

Improved Defensive Performance Spoiled as Caps are Shutout for the Third Time This Season
Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Washington Capitals 0
(Photo courtesy of Keith Srakocic/AP)

Whether it was the presence of a newly acquired defenseman in Milan Jurcina, or a determination to refocus on playing traditional Capitals' hockey, the Caps played their most complete game of the season defensively. They shut down the NHL's leading point scorer in Sidney Crosby and the leading Calder Trophy favorite in Evgeni Malkin, keeping them both off the scoreboard and denying them any significant opportunities.

Jurcina made his debut with the Washington Capitals today and made himself right at home, pairing up with former Providence Bruins teammate Shaone Morrisson. He wasted no time making an impact stopping Sidney Crosby as he attempted to go coast to coast just four minutes in. Crosby maneuvered his way around three Capitals players, but a Jurcina pokecheck stopped him from moving in on Kolzig.

Unlike previous games where the team has struggled out of the gate, the Capitals controlled the action early on recording 8 of the games first 9 shots. Six minutes in, Chris Clark had the best scoring chance with two point blank shots in front of Fleury on the power play. During the same man advantage, Alex Ovechkin served the Penguins notice that the Caps were here to play when he drilled Maxime Talbot in the open ice as he had his head down while trying to clear the puck out of his defensive zone. After taking a moment to regain his senses, Talbot headed off to the locker room for repairs. He did return later in the game.

The middle of the second period set the tone for the remainder of the game. Moments after a Steve Eminger shot rang off the post, Ronald Petrovicky beat Kolzig on a weak shot as he entered the offensive zone on a 2 on 2 situation. He faked a slap shot then squeezed a wrist shot between Kolzig's glove and right pad. The goal was an unassisted marker for Petrovicky's 2nd of the season.

That goal would be all Pittsburgh would need as despite the Caps outshooting the Penguins 30-20, they were unable to penetrate goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He stopped all 30 of those shots for his 4th shutout of the season, improving his record to 24-12-6. The key to Fleury's success was his ability to control the first shot from the Capitals and prevent any rebounds.

Rookie Jordan Staal put the game away with 37 seconds to go as he scored an empty net goal to make it 2-0.

The shutout meant an end to Alex Ovechkin's career high point scoring streak at 13 games. It was an uncharacteristic game for Ovechkin who did not record his first shot of the game until the 7 and a half minute mark of the third period.

The loss was the Caps fifth out of their last six games overall and tenth of their last eleven on the road, dropping their record to 21-25-7. The Penguins extended their winning streak to six games and improved to 25-17-8.

Game Notes:

Milan Jurcina's debut meant Lawrence Nycholat was a healthy scratch for the first time since his recall from Hershey on December 23rd. He had been slumping as of late, recording a -7 defensive rating in his last five games.... Daren Machesney backed up Kolzig for the second consecutive game as Brent Johnson remained out with a "body" injury(?).... The loss means the Caps are now 3-17-1 in the last 21 regular season games at Pittsburgh.... The Caps were shut out for the first time since a 5-0 loss at Carolina November 9th.... The 20 shots allowed by Washington was their fewest of the season.... A Boston win at Carolina tonight would drop the Caps to 14th in the conference.

No comments: