Thursday, December 1, 2011

Penguins Game 26 Recap - Penguins 2, Capitals 1

The last time the Penguins played the Capitals they badly outshot them but just couldn’t finish the deal. This time around they badly outshot them and finished the deal in a 2-1 win at the Verizon Center. The Penguins held the Caps to only 17 shots which, per stat guru Bob Gove, is the least amount of shots the Capitals every have had against the Penguins. Oh yea, the Penguins were without its top two defensive players this game. Just a dominating defensive effort tonight. The Penguins fired off 35 shots and peppered Tomas Vokoun and got clutch goals from Craig Adams and Chris Kunitz to push the Penguins to 15-7-4 while the Capitals dropped to only one game over .500 (12-11-1) and are in an absolute free fall after starting the season 7-0-0. Adams scored the first goal off a nice feed from Asham who worked the puck behind the goal and found Adams on the backside for his second of the season. The Caps tied it up in the second period just 1:20 in on a really sick backhand goal by Jason Chimera and the Caps just kept going from there. They had a pretty good second period where they registered 11 of their 17 shots. The game was really in the balance as both teams went to the second intermission tied and you just kind of knew that the next team to score was going to win. That was the Penguins. The Caps had the puck in its own end on Kunitz just flew in and beat out a pair of defenders to get the puck and caught Vokoun flat footed and beat him under the left armpit for the game winner. Maybe the most impressive part of the game was the final three minutes when the Capitals might have entered the Penguins zone for maybe 25 seconds. During the final few minutes the Caps could barely get the puck out of its own end to get Vokoun off the ice for the extra attacker. Just outstanding. The Penguins really did what they did against the Rangers. Came out and played some dominate hockey and held a 13-4 shot advantage and a 1-0 lead only to really play a pretty bad second period. They outshot Washington only 12-11 and the Capitals held most of the play for the second period. Lucky for the Penguins the Caps are just not all there and really are in a free fall. Ovechkin only attempted one shot tonight and was basically invisible. The Caps were credited with 43 hits but if you ask me the hits statistic is really meaningless in a one game situation. The Capitals were more interested in going for the body than the puck and that played into the final result. Fine by me. Chris Kunitz continues to be great for the Penguins. When he first came here he didn’t get off to a great start but the last two years he has more than earned his paycheck and does nothing but make huge plays for the team. Much in the same respect as Pascal Duipuis does for the Pens so far this year. Tonight was the first NHL game for Simone Despres and it was just that. He struggled pretty bad early but bounced back to have an alright game. He earned his first ever NHL point on an assist of the Kunitz goal so that was probably pretty cool for him. I don’t necessarily think that Despres is ready for the NHL but there is no hurry for him to get up here. The Penguins are down two d-men right now so this is almost like an emergency situation type thing. The rest of the defense was really good tonight especially Paul Martin and Derek Engelland. Martin stepped up and played over 28 minutes of ice time on a night where they missed their top two defensive minutes eaters and was really sound in his own zone. Engelland has been so good this year and really has improved and was really good against Ovechkin tonight. Ovi is a very physical player and tried to lay the wood a few times on Engo but he was having none of it was just as physical back and really didn’t give Ovi much room to work. Matt Niskanen can be talked about in the same breath as Engelland on the improvement from last year. He was outstanding tonight and after thinking he may not be on the team this year he has played like a top pairing guy and it was on display tonight. Robert Bortuzzo is kind of in the same realm as Despres but he has looked really good. He looks poised and has played the best hockey of those “emergency” guys that are filling in for Tang and Z. I assume a lot of people are going to bring up that Sidney Crosby didn’t have any points tonight but that does not mean that h e didn’t have an effect on the game. Crosby was all over the ice and played unreal in the defensive zone. It was on prime display when during the final minute he got the puck and kept it for about 10 seconds and no Capital player could get it off him along the boards. One bad thing that happened tonight and against the Rangers was the penguins in the face off circle. They won only 17-of-54 face offs tonight and no Penguin was better than 38% from the circle. Crosby was particularly bad going only 6-of-22. This comes after getting dominated against the Rangers. I hope this isn’t a trend but I doubt it is because for most of the year the Penguins have been the best team at winning face offs so I won’t worry too much about it but it isn’t good to see performances like this in a very important aspect of the game. The power play was also 0-for-3 and didn’t look good all night. They are now 1-for-10 in the last three games after scoring power play goals in three straight games before that. The power play has been much better this year but it seems as if they go in streaks. The Capitals did a nice job of working the PK and they deserve some credit in that respect because the Penguins looked disorganized for all three of their attempts. Big win for the Pens to get two points and a regulation win against a quality (I guess?) Eastern Conference opponent. The Penguins will not turn its focus to Carolina on Saturday before playing Boston and Philadelphia next week.

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