Series tied 2-2
Once again, the Caps came out flying. Nicklas Backstrom scored just 36 seconds into the game to put the Caps up 1-0. From there out, it was just about all Pens. Pittsburgh scored just a few minutes later to tie, and never looked back. At the end of the 1st period, the score was 3-1 Pens. Washington, in spite of scoring a short handed goal, would not fare any better for the remaining two periods, and would ultimately fall by the final score of 5-3. Not even Simeon Varlamov could salvage this one, as even he had his first "bad" game of the playoffs. Three Capitals star players, were nonfactors in this game as well, including Alex Ovechkin, who mustered just two shots on goal this game, and a total of 7 in his last two games. The other Caps of note, who had disappearing acts this game were Alexander Semin, and Mike Green.
The Caps looked sluggish shortly after scoring the first goal, and almost never picked up. It would only get worse for the Capitals after what would become the most controversial play of the night, and possibly of this whole series. At 14:55 of the period, with Washington on it's first power play of the night Brooks Laich carried the puck in behind the Pens goal. The Pens would regain control and attempt to being the break out, with Alex Ovechkin streaking in down the left wing boards. Ovechkin went straight for the puck that Pens defencemen Sergei Goncahr had poked away. Ovechkin kept going straight for the puck and ended up colliding with Gonchar, in what some are calling a dirty knee on knee hit. Upon watching the replays, it appared that Ovechkin was going for the puck, and was intending to hit Gonchar, but not with his knee. Ovechkin did make a move towards gonchar, however from the replays it appeared he led with his shoulder. Ovechkin's leg never moved, however it did land knee on knee with Gonchars right leg. Gonchar went down in a heap, and had to be helped from the ice and did not return for the game. Ovechkin was assesed a minor penalty on the play for "tripping".
After the game, Ovechkin had this to say regarding the hit:
"I tried to hit him and he tried to move to his left, and I don't have time to realize what is going on and I hit [him with] my knee. It was accident. I'm not the kind of guy who wants to injure a player like this, especially [because] I know Gonch. I tried to hit him with my shoulder and he moved left, but his legs were in the same spot."You decide for yourself if you think the hit was dirty. I personally think it was accidental. It appears in the video that Ovechkin is in fact attempting to head with his shoulder. Here is the video:
While the Capitals did get fewer power play chances than the Pens, it can hardly be said the Caps did not get their power play chances. The Caps had 4 power plays, to the Penguins 6. Once again, the Caps were out shot for the game 28-22, although the Caps did outshoot the Pens 5-4 in the middle period, the first time the Capitals had outshot the Pens in a period this series. The Caps are getting decent scoring from their other sources, however if the Capitals want to silence the critics, they are going to need scoring from thier superstar players, in a more consisent level. Washington Can no longer afford to rest on its collective laures as it has the past two games, the series is now on the line. The Caps must do some serious soul searching, and find the strengh, determineation, heart, desire, chemisty, and wear with all, in order not to end up like the club they just knocked out in the first round, the NY Rangers. Thus far in the playoffs, it has seemed as if the Capitals play thier best when they are up against the wallk when the pressure is on, and when they are in danger. Let's hope that holds true tomrrow night at Verizon Center, for the team that wins game five will likely be the team that advances to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. And the ghosts of choking dogs past wich were slowly starting to find thier way in, are now looming arge over the Capitals, thier loyal fans, and Washington. Its up to the Caps to learn from history, and not allow history to repeat itself, for the 6th time.