Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Penguins 4 - Capitals 3: Into the Playoffs!

Sidney Crosby
(AFP/Getty Images/Mitchell Layton)

While Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin haven't been lighting up many of the Caps/Pens games this year, the Penguins have been lighting up the Capitals like a Cuban cigar.

Last night saw both kids do some magic, but the Penguins prevailed, once again, by a 4-3 score.

The win gave the Penguins their first playoff spot since 2001, capping off a great season in which the youthful crew meshed with the cagey vets to provide one of the stronger clubs in the Eastern Conference.

Sidney earned 3rd Star honours with 1 goal, 1 assist, -1, and 6(!) shots on goal in 21:28 of ice time.

From Yahoo! Sports:
Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, there was no champagne in the winning locker room.

The Penguins' 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday guaranteed postseason action for the once-beleaguered franchise, with help from two second-period goals by Ryan Whitney. It was Whitney's second two-goal game of the season.

"It's a great accomplishment. We're proud of clinching the playoffs, but we want more," said Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien.

"It's pretty exciting to get in the playoffs. That's been our goal all season," Whitney said. "Just to know we would be playing in April, that's one of our goals and we reached it tonight."

Whitney scored the second and fourth Penguins goals, but it was Sidney Crosby's second-period goal past a stickless Olaf Kolzig that was the most memorable.

Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer with 113 points, took the puck behind the net and tipped it past the sprawling Kolzig to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead at 6:21 of the second period. Moments before, the Penguins' Gary Roberts slammed into Washington's goalie causing Kolzig's stick to sputter out of his hand, and settle to the right side of the goal.

"You just start to get low to the ice. I didn't panic too much. I've played like that in practice," Kolzig said. "I thought I had a chance to freeze (the puck), but it just got away from me. I've got to be a little tougher in front in those circumstances."

In his second season, Crosby led his team to its fourth straight win this season over Alex Ovechkin's Capitals. Crosby, the No. 1 pick in 2005, who assisted on Whitney's first goal, scored two goals and assisted on three others against Washington this season. Ovechkin, the first pick in 2004, did not score a goal in four games against Pittsburgh this season, but had three assists.

Pittsburgh spotted the Capitals a 2-0 lead and then quickly called a timeout.

"We're not playing right. I don't think the focus was there," said Therrien.

"(Therrien) just said that we're not playing with enough desperation," Crosby said. "We weren't ready. He wanted to make sure we just got back to work."

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