When it came down to it, the Washington Capitals just didn't have it in them.

The Pittsburgh Penguins scored early, often, and resoundingly, defeating the Caps 6-2 before yet another sold-out, red-clad crowd at Verizon Center.

Washington came out pretty quickly in Game Seven, and actually--albeit briefly--had a lead in shots on goal at 5-4. But after Marc-Andre Fleury gloved Alex Ovechkin's breakaway shot, both teams--and everyone in the arena--could feel a momentum shift.

Ovechkin was circumspect after the game, "First 10 minutes were pretty good, getting pucks in deep. I didn't score on the breakaway, so if I score first goal, maybe a different game."

Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

Just minutes later, Shaone Morrisonn was called for slashing, putting Pittsburgh on the power play for the first of three tries on the evening. Just a little over one minute in on the man-advantage, Sidney Crosby banged home his 11th goal of the playoffs, assisted by Sergei Gonchar, the defenseman that Ovechkin knocked out of Game Four with a violent collision.

The P.A. announcer didn't even have time to announce the goal when unheralded right winger Craig Adams--he of two goals in 45 games this season--snapped a wrist shot past Semyon Varlamov just eight seconds later. At that point, it was all over but the crying.

Defenseman Brian Pothier was succinct when asked how the team could have re-grouped after the two quick strikes. "Well, not do what we were doing, cause it was terrible what we were doing out there."

The Penguins received another power play a few minutes later as Sergei Fedorov was whistled for interference. They would not score, but it helped wear the Caps down, and certainly contributed to the 16-5 shot discrepancy.

If Washington had any hopes of climbing back into this one, they were dashed quickly at the start of the second period, as trade deadline pick-up Bill Guerin beat Varlamov with a slap shot just 28 seconds into the frame. Any energy in the building quickly dissipated.

Coach Bruce Boudreau defended his netminder, who carried his team into the second round, but had concerns with his confidence, especially after the third goal. "After the third goal, I was thinking about pulling him cause he looked really dejected. Maybe I should have called a time out at that point. But after the fourth goal I think the wind completely came out of his sails emotionally."

"I wish maybe I [had pulled him] one goal sooner."

The fourth goal came from one of Pittsburgh's lesser known, but most important players this series, Kris Letang. Letang had the game-winner in Game Four, and tonight's was the nail in the Caps' coffin.

His slap shot came at 2:12 of the second, and that's when Boudreau lifted Varlamov in favor of Jose Theodore, the man he replaced in Game Two of the first round series against the New York Rangers.

The rest of the game was fairly inconsequential. The teams traded two goals apiece down the stretch, including Ovechkin's 11th of the playoffs, and Crosby's capper, another power play goal, at 2:02 of the third period.

Pittsburgh received three power plays, the Caps zero.

Brooks Laich offered his opinion of Pittsburgh's domination. "If you look at the game tonight, they were more composed with the puck [and] the reason they won the game is that they outworked us."

"It's not easy to stand here and say that we were outworked in our building in a Game Seven, but I'm sure we're going to have to think about that for a long time."

NOTES: After the game, Boudreau admitted several of his players were playing with injuries that would have kept them out of the regular season, but didn't want to use that as an excuse. He told reporters he would detail the injuries in Friday's breakdown day.

The Capitals were scored with 19 giveaways, compared to Pittsburgh's four. Mike Green had four turnovers by himself. Green finished at minus-three for the night, and was effectively benched in the third period.

Photo 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

The Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Verizon Center.

Ok, that's all for my journalism background.

This game is a big deal.

It's big for the players. Unlike athletes in other professional sports, hockey players are in it for one thing: to win the Cup. Sure, the paycheck is nice. But no one starts playing hockey at five years old for the money. They play on frozen ponds and streams; get ice time at the rink at 6 a.m. (or earlier), and always dream of hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.

From Ovechkin to Beagle, the only thing more precious than lacing them up tonight would be to lace them up again against Boston or Carolina.

It's big for the organization. No one wants to win this thing more than Ted Leonsis. He gave the orders to rebuild this franchise from the ground up, and took a lot of heat in doing so. Two straight Southeast Division titles are nothing to sneeze at, but redemption and validation start with dispatching the Penguins and moving on to the Eastern Finals.

George McPhee was Leonsis' architect. He sent out some big names, and in return acquired young talent at every opportunity, and has drafted key players up and down the lineup, from the goalie to the MVP. His hard work is flourishing and should be recognized.

And the coach, Bruce Boudreau. The career minor leaguer who caught lightning in a bottle last season to win the Adams award, he is proving every night that he belongs with the big boys in the coaching fraternity.

It's big for the league. The three most talented players in the league--on two of the youngest teams in the league--have been facing off for six thrilling, heart-stopping, roller coaster games. It's been a rating bonanza, nationally and locally.

Five games have been decided by one goal, the other just two. Three games went to overtime, including the Game Six possible-elimination game. Both teams have led in each game. Both teams have led the series.

The teams have been tied or had just a one-goal lead for 92 percent of the series.

There has been intrigue, innuendo and accusations. There has been performance. There have been unlikely heroes.

This series has had it all. And then some.

It's big for the fans. The Capitals have long been the distant cousin to their neighbors to the north. Philly, New York (Islanders and Rangers), New Jersey, Pittsburgh. None will admit to the Caps being a "rival", since rivals rip your heart out. Yet, those teams are the Caps' rivals.

Ask anyone who has been a fan of the Caps for longer than ten minutes, and they'll tell you. They'll tell you about Billy Smith and Pat LaFontaine and Mario Lemieux and Ron Hextall. They'll tell you about Anders Kallur, Kevin Stevens and Ray Ferraro. They'll tell you about Joffrey Lupul.

They'll tell you about the legions of Flyers and Penguins fans invading the Cap Centre. Buses and buses of them. About being visitors in their own building.

They'll tell you about the post-lockout empty MCI Arena, where you could walk up for a Tuesday night game and buy any seat you wanted.

They'll tell you about the Finals in 1998, when the building was 3/4 full of Red Wings fans.

They'll tell you that going to the Finals in 1998 was great, but it would mean so more to go through Pittsburgh.

It's time for all that to end. Winning tonight means not just advancing to the Conference Finals, but it means advancing past all the history, all the heartbreak, all the misery. It means tearing the hearts out of someone else's chest. It brings validation; arrival. Redemption.

Rock the Red.

Congrats Hershey Bears!

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Hershey Bears beat the Baby Pens 3-0 Tuesday night in game 7 to advance to the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.

Bears Radio Network Three Stars of the Game:
1. Michal Neuvirth (back-to-back shutouts)
2. Keith Aucoin (goal and an assist)
3. Steve Pinizzotto (goal)

Bears will play this Saturday and Sunday nights at home against either the Providence Bruins or Worcester Sharks.

Now it is the Caps turn to beat the Full Size Pens in game 7!
Let's Go Caps!

Posted by Cheryl Nichols, Contributor and Photographer to Caps News Network

DC Sports Bog posted a
great video that I wanted to share of the Caps celebrating game 6 win, however, looking forward to game 7.

Steinburg provides more celebrating info here.

Did anyone happen to purchase one of Mike Green's game used sticks that would be willing to donate back to him for game 7? Or I bet that we could round up fans that would buy it back!

Green's stick of choice, the Easton Stealth, was discontinued by the company some time ago, and at the beginning of this season Green had just 15 of them left. And in Game 1 of this series, he broke the last one.

Green has one more stick, however, he agreed to send it to Hockey Hall of Fame (Green scored goals in eight consecutive games this season — a league record for a defenseman). Caps Insider heard that it might be back in Greenie's hands on Wednesday.

Stick or no stick, we want the our Mike Green back!!

The Capitals are now one for their last one in overtime playoff games.

David Steckel is a new Caps hero, flicking a Brooks Laich shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for the game winner. Props to Stecks for for winning the faceoff and Bradley controlling the puck and feeding Laich for the original shot.

Steckel, Laich and Bradley. Again.

Steckel was 73% (11-for-15) in the dot. Boyd Gordon was 88% (7-of-8).

Rob Scuderi clanged one off the crossbar a minute earlier. Usually the type of dagger that kills the Caps in OT.

Big game for Victor Kozlov. Nice time to step up with a pair.

Big game from Alexander Semin. Not just the goal, but great several rushes that could have drawn three penalties, but got just one whistle. But the goal was spectacular. Shooting through Laich's legs to a narrow opening on a short angle. Exquisite.

Alex Ovechkin registered three helpers, plus-three rating, five shots and just two hits.

When do the Caps get a call? The Capitals continue to be on the short end of the whistles. Semin got hauled down twice with no call. And that last slash? How can that call be defended? I don't like to complain about officiating, but that last whistle was unconscionable.

Semyon Varlamov with another 38 saves on 42 shots.

Beagle got four shifts and 2:06 in ice time. C'mon Bruce, get OUR 87 back out there.

P.S. If you really love Game Sevens, Hershey earned a Gave Seven against the Baby Pens in Hershey tomorrow night. Go Bears! It's just a two-hour drive :-)

The Washington Capitals face elimination tonight in Game Six against the Pittsburgh Penguins. There has been much written and many comments made in anticipation of this game.

However, I unfortunately cannot add to the rhetoric today. I took a tumble in my dek hockey game yesterday and went head first into the boards. I have a lump on my head and a splitting headache, and on my way to have my doctor take a look to see if I've scrambled my eggs.

If you read my blog, you know what's at stake tonight. Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel better and can recap a Game Six victory. Until then,



Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, May 10, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

I HATE overtime.

In case you weren't aware, tonight was the Capitals seventh straight overtime playoff loss. Like I said, I HATE overtime.

Look, there's just no reason to throw trash on the ice. None. I know it was a bad call. I know the Caps have been getting the short end of it this series, last series, and every series back to the Islanders in the '80s.

But seriously, the only thing you do when you throw trash on the ice is make yourself look like an idiot and bring scorn and ridicule on the organization.

I'm sure the trash throwers are the same people that leave Ted nasty emails. Do the real fans a favor. Stay the hell home for Game Seven.

I will be very interested after the playoffs are over to find out what physical ailments Mike Green and Alexander Semin are suffering from. Because the Green and Semin that starred for the Caps during most of the season have been conspicuously absent in this series.

It's a shame that the game-winner was an own goal, especially with the good game I thought Tom Poti played tonight.

Crosby and Malkin are both really good hockey players, but Ovechkin is transcendent. He isn't playing the same game as the others.