GAME 40 RE-CAP: Just Another Two Points

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, January 03, 2011 | , , , , | 3 comments »

THE RESULT:  Just another two points?  Not even close.

It was game that Bruce Boudreau said was "as close to the Stanley Cup as we've gotten" in atmosphere.  "When you see [65,000-plus] people in there -- whether they are booing or cheering -- it's an experince I'll never forget."

"It was more than just a game to everybody.  Don't let anybody fool you."

The official ledger will say the Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in a regular season game played Jan. 1, 2011.  Eric Fehr scored two goals and Semyon Varlamov made 22 saves for the victors, and both mega-stars, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, were kept off the scoresheet.

But Boudreau was right, anyone connected with the game -- on the ice, in the press box, in the stands or watching at home alone or in bar with others -- knows that it was more important than just two points.

These teams, as the award-winning HBO series 24/7 has driven home in its first three episodes, do not like each other.  At all.  The fight between John Erskine and Mike Rupp in the first period was one of the more obvious displays of hatred. 

There were plenty more subtle displays: the constant slashing of skate tops, devestating checking that knocked a pane of glass out behind the Penguins net at one point, Ovechkin getting his face smooshed to the ice by Pascual Dupuis after Ovi "tripped" on the blue line.

There was Crosby getting laid out by an incidental hit by David Steckel at the end of the second period, which drew the ire of Crosby and Pens fans after the game.

And it all came to a boil with 0.6 seconds remaining, when what should have been a final face-off to end the game turning into a mice little scrum, with face washes all around, including Ovechkin and Chris Kunitz squaring off and needing to be separated.

Penguins coach "Disco" Dan Bylsma even put his top fighter, Derek Engellund, out for the final draw in case things got especially nasty, though Erskine tied him up immediately to prevent any real escallation.

The result of all the unpleasantry?  The first time in two years the Winter Classic failed to end with a post-game lineup handshake between the two teams, with the Capitals collected at their blue line waiting as the Penguins marched off the ice under the watchful eye of their captain.

HBO's cameras have gone home now.  But the intense rivalry will continue.  Mark Sunday, Feb, 6 on your calendar for the next edition of hockey's hottest rivalry.

You know both teams already have, whether they will admit to it or not.

THE GOOD:  Semyon Varlamov.  22 saves on 23 shots, many of the bouncing, in-tight variety.  Kept his focus and even showed some emotion at the end, bunny hopping to Ovechkin and Backstrom at the final horn.

THE BAD:  Alex Semin.  Extended his goal scoring drought to an even dozen games, getting just one shot on goal in 12:54 TOI.

THE UGLY:  The weather and ice conditions.  Just a shame that the playing conditions couldn't have been better for this type of stage.  Kudos to the league though for doing what they could under such poor conditions and for re-scheduling so early so everyone could make proper arrangements.

THE STATS: Mike Knuble (9) from Nicklas Backstrom (26) and Mike Green (11) at 6:54 of 2nd (PPG). Eric Fehr (6) from Marcus Johansson (4) and Jason Chimera (7) at 14:45 of 2nd.  Eric Fehr (7) from Jason Chimera (8) and John Erskine (6) at 11:59 of 3rd.

NEXT GAME:  Tuesday at 7:00 pm against Tampa Bay for first place in the Southeast Division at Verizon Center.

CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS

3. Jay Beagle.  His hard work and intensity and two scoring chances in the first period set the tone for the lunch pail Capitals Saturday night. (Special Mentions for Jason Chimera (2 A) and John Erskine (assist, TKO of Mike Rupp).
2. Eric Fehr.  He needed a two-goal game as bad as anyone.  "Me and Fehrsie love the outdoors!"  Indeed, Prophet Jason Chimera.
1. Semyon Varlamov.  Not ready to hand him the crown just yet, but the NHL's No. 1 Star of the Week was sharp in poor conditions.  His style and athleticism was much more suited to the pinball game the Winter Classic turned into.

3 comments

  1. ioafe // January 3, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

    Agreed, the rivalry is intense. I sat at a bar on the southside and there was no love loss with some of the Penguins fans with me wearing my red #8

  2. GO // January 4, 2011 at 7:27 AM  

    Heck of a win for the Caps. Think it will stand as a turning point in their season and the catalyst for them running away with the southeast division.

  3. Dave Nichols // January 4, 2011 at 10:04 AM  

    thanks for the comments. the entire weekend was a great fan experience, and hopefully the Caps can keep the momentum tonight against TB.