Alex Ovechkin had a secondary assist but once again made little impact on Sunday's game. (Yahoo!)
The Washington Capitals were spanked on home ice Sunday afternoon by the Pittsburgh Penguins, falling 6-3. After falling behind twice, Washington tied the game twice before Pittsburgh pulled away with three goals in the second period, two of which came in a little over half a minute. Tomas Vokoun, making his first start in Washington since being traded in June, was very good, despite one error, and proved to many that the Penguins have an excellent goaltending tandem. With the loss, Washington is now 2-6-1 on the season and near the NHL basement.
As with all Penguins-Capitals affairs, this one got off to a blistering start, with Chris Kunitz and Mike Green trading goals in the first five minutes of the game. Following the two early goals, the pace did not slow down at all, with more chances arriving for both teams. Just before the midway mark of the period, Pittsburgh took the lead again with a Deryk Engelland slapshot that was deflected in front by Matt Cooke and found its way past Braden Holtby. The frantic back and forth action continued with great chances for both teams, including a huge save on Sidney Crosby by Holtby in front. The first period closed with the Penguins ahead, but both teams still pressing for more.
The second period got off to a good start for the Capitals, even with a bit of luck. A long John Carlson dump in deflected off the glass in the corner and hopped into the net that Tomas Vokoun had vacated in anticipation of stopping the puck behind the net. But the good fortune for the Capitals would stop there. Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang scored 37 seconds apart, both very squeaky goals on Holtby, to take a 4-2 lead midway through the period. Washington failed to execute on power plays as the period continued, but the Penguins did not, adding another off the stick of Kunitz just in front. Boos rained down from the Verizon Center faithful as the second period ended.
Awarded a power play early in the third, Washington finally converted with the man advantage as Mike Ribeiro, ever excellent, cashed in after a scrum in front to cut the deficit to two goals. But Washington would get no closer, as Dan Bylsma’s puck support system and Tomas Vokoun shut down most of the chances the Caps could garner on offense. A power play with six minutes remaining in regulation produced way too much passing and little attempts at goal, and the Penguins added more salt in the wound with another Kunitz marker just before the game ended.
Well, damn. This whitewash at the hands of a team many expect to make a run at the Stanley Cup immediately brushes a nice win over a struggling Flyers team on Friday night aside. The Penguins dominated this game, and though they got some help from shoddy goaltending, they fully deserved to romp. They’re good.
About that goaltending – Braden Holtby has got to be better. Two of the goals were not his fault today, and the defense in front of him needs to improve, but the third and fourth goals cannot go in. Charmin soft. When you’re the goaltender behind a struggling team, like Holtby was today, you need to make the saves to keep your team in the game and give them a chance. Michal Neuvirth has largely been able to do this so far on the season; Holtby has not.
I hate to keep on this Alex Ovechkin thing, but I can’t stop myself at this point. When you are a goal scorer, albeit a declining one, you need to go to the net to score said goals. Not make a rush to the net (good) and then, when you lose the puck, loop around the net while Mike Ribeiro takes on three Penguins in the goal crease (bad). Ovechkin had a good effort play which led to the Caps’ third goal, but that was about it. Just under a decade more, y’all.
The Capitals play next against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.