Friday, December 28, 2007

Pens v Caps (W 4-3 OT)

AHHHHH. Vacations are wonderful. I hope every one of you had as nice a Christmas as I did. There is less than a week until the Ice Bowl Winter Classic [*laughs giddily*] and I've been busy getting ready. I can't wait, although I'm starting to get nervous now. I just hope the weather cooperates.

Tonight the Pens faced the Capitals. Ty Conklin was the starting goaltender for the Pens, and Brent Johnson was the starting goaltender for the Caps. Early on, we were given the "Sid v Alex" statistics:


Sid and Alex

The first period started with Matt Pettinger trying to hit Brooks Orpik, but he misfired so he took the brunt of his own hit against the boards. He went down hard and was slow to get back up. Saint Sid made a beautiful spinning backhand attempt, but Johnson blocked the shot, and no other Penguins were around to help out with the rebound. Then Alex Ovechkin lost his footing on a play and turned the puck over to the Pens. Bob Errey and Paul Steigerwald wondered out loud if Ovie might psych himself out and/or overcompensate when he faces Sid because his stats when he faces the Pens are so out of sync with his overall stats. (You just know that they jinxed it here...) Less than 5 minutes into the period, Mike Green shot the puck at Conklin. Just as Conklin froze the puck after making the save, the camera moves to a shot of BIG Georges Laraque and equally Big Donald Brashear throwing down their gloves and getting ready to go at it. It was not their best fight, by any stretch of the imagination. (We were treated to clips of the last 3 times these two titans tangled.) On the next play, the Pens were just barely denied the first goal of the night by Johnson. Ovie got the rebound and whisked the puck the other way. He snapped off a wrister that hit Conklin so hard that the puck ricocheted off him and sped down over half the length of the ice. WOW.

It wasn't a great fight.

After a commercial break, FSN Pittsburgh showed a clip of Laraque, who had been mic'd up for the day's practice, ripping on Gary Roberts. Following a shot taken by Roberts, Laraque said this: "Oh my God! Potash can shoot harder than that!" That "Potash" Laraque references is FSN reporter Dan Potash, who isn't exactly a tiny man but is definitely no Gary Roberts. I'm guessing that the only man that could get away with saying those words to Roberts would be Laraque. He'd probably be the only person who would be brave enough to try in the first place!

The night's first penalty went to Jarrko Ruutu for holding. The Caps didn't score on their power play. Orpik collided with David Steckel almost at center ice. Both men went flying and fell down but luckily neither one was hurt. Roberts and Brian Pothier had words after Roberts almost killed Pothier with a hit. Pothier was lucky, though - he moved out of the way of the Gary Train™ just in time to avoid the worst of it. Later, Kris Letang attempted to make an East-West pass in the Penguins' zone, but it was intercepted by a Capitals player who was streaking through. Fortunately for Letang, Conklin was paying attention and made the save. Then, a 3-on-1 in favor of the Pens developed, and Jeff Taffe (pronounced "Tayf") took the shot and scored a goal. Pens 1, Caps 0. The lead would not last, though. Conklin came out and made a tape-to-tape pass to Sergei Gonchar. Gonch decided to try to pass it to Rob Scuderi by bouncing it off the boards behind the cage; however, Gonch didn't shoot the puck at the correct angle. Instead of bouncing to Scuds, it popped back off the boards to the corner of the cage where Boyd Gordon was just arriving. Conklin got down low and tight to prevent the wrap around, but Gordon saw an alternative. He made a quick, short pass to Brashear, who was coming down the other side of the ice. Brashear put it in the open net to tie the game at a goal apiece.

Alex and Sid (again)

The Pens almost got it right back after Laraque set Erik Christensen up, but Johnson held strong. Then Sid tried to reclaim the lead when he split the D and took a shot. The rebound went straight back to Sidney. He took another shot. Again, the rebound went straight back to The Kid. He took a third shot as he fell on his butt. Somehow, Johnson managed to block all three attempts. With just over 2 minutes left in the period, Colby Armstrong rushed toward the net with Evgeni Malkin not far behind. Despite being challenged by no less than 2 Caps d-men, Army got control of a rebound and fired off a shot from the side of the cage. As Johnson scrambled to get into position to block Army's shot after blocking the initial shot from a different angle, he fell down on his left knee in a weird way. His efforts were fruitless. Army scored the goal, and Johnson left the game to receive treatment. He was replaced by Olie Kolzig. Pens 2, Caps 1. With just under 17 seconds left in the period, Jordan Staal stripped the puck away from Ovechkin. Ovie must have taken exception to this because he cross checked Staal. Ovie went to the box for the remainder of the period. The Pens would start the second period with 1:43 seconds left in his penalty.

Johnson gets help after getting injured.

The Pens didn't score on their power play at the beginning of the second period. And less than 6 minutes in to the period, Pothier scored a goal with a shot so hard that it bounced out of the net and almost out to neutral ice. It was difficult to see the goal until it was shown again in super slow-mo. Pens 2, Caps 2. Ruutu put a hard hit on Alexander Semin. Semin went down in a dazed heap and had to be helped off the ice by a linesman. He had a cut on his chin and may have bitten his tongue or his cheek, too, because as he made his way back to the bench he spit out some blood. Later Taffe tried for goal number two with a give and go with Adam Hall, but Kolzig didn't allow it. Less than 2 minutes left in the period, we experienced deja vu: Conklin came out and made another nice tape-to-tape pass to Gonchar. Gonch again decided to try to pass the puck by bouncing it off the boards behind the cage; however, once again Gonch didn't shoot the puck at the correct angle. This time the puck popped back off the boards to the corner of the cage where Nicklas Backstrom was just arriving. Again Conklin got into position to prevent Backstrom from scoring, but Backstrom made a quick, short pass to Ovie, who came in so fast it was like he came out of nowhere. Of course Ovie put it in the open net to give the Caps the lead. Pens 2, Caps 3. As the period expired, Malkin was tripped by either Semin or Shaone Morrisonn (the number on the offender's jersey was either a 26 or a 28), but nothing was called. Malkin went crashing full speed into the boards hard and seemed like he was hurt. Mercifully, the period was over so he could get rest and/or treatment.

It won't NOT be a goal no matter how long you stare at that puck, Sid!

At the beginning of the third period, Sid and Alex shared a "moment" together. Ovie hit Sid and pinned him against the boards. In return, Sid popped Ovie in the face. I'm sure it was all done out of love. ;) A couple of minutes later, Army was called for interference. At almost the same time, Ovie hit Letang. As he fell, Letang's foot came up and the blade of his skate went into Ovie's upper thigh. Ovie skated and seemed fine until the play was stopped for Army's penalty. Then he left the ice and was seen limping down the runway to the locker rooms. He didn't return, so obviously he wasn't fine. This article from the Canadian Press details what happened to Alex:
The Capitals also played most of the third period without star Alex Ovechkin, who needed a several stitches to close a cut on his leg. Ovechkin, whose 26th goal had given Washington a 3-2 lead, played only about 1 1/2 minutes in the final period even though his injury was minor.

"It took the doctor so long to get down here (the bench), we couldn't get him back on the ice," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He got a couple of stitches. It is something that you have to get done."
YIKES. He needed "several stitches" but the "injury was minor?!" Yet another piece of evidence that shows us that hockey players are the toughest S.O.B.s on Earth. Anyhoo, the Capitals did not capitalize on their power play. Our main man had two shorthanded chances during the power play, but both times he was denied a shot on goal. Just seconds after Army returned to the ice after his penalty expired, Sid got a third chance. He again split the D, but just as Johnson had done earlier, Kolzig blocked the shot. Later, Sid was part of a 3-on-2 that developed, but Malkin couldn't get a strong shot on the puck. Sid worked like a man possessed to keep the puck in the Caps' zone, and after Morrisonn put a late hit on Geno, a scrum broke out between the two teams. Morrisonn went to the box for roughing. I've already written so much that I don't have enough space to describe all that happened during this power play. In a nutshell, the Pens were able to keep possession of the puck and keep the play going for 1 minute 53 seconds before Kolzig ROBBED Sid of a goal to stop the play. It was quite a sight. Then, Crusher won the faceoff for the Pens and sent the puck up to the point for Darryl Sydor, who earned his first goal as a Penguin with a one-timer that deflected off Milan Jurcina's glove and into the net. Pens 3, Caps 3. There were just under three minutes left in the third when Sydor tied it up for the Pens. The period ended and overtime began.

About two minutes into the overtime period, Sidney was controlling the puck around the net. He attracted 3 of the 4 Capitals skaters, so he knew he wouldn't be able to get a good shot at the net. Instead, he took those 3 Caps to Kolzig's right while Gonchar was unchallenged off to Kolzig's left. Sid made a nice pass to Gonch, who makes up for the two earlier giveaways by shooting the puck into the wide open net. The Pens win it and take the extra point!

Sid attracts the three Capitals players so he passes the puck to Gonchar...

...and with no problem, Gonchar scores. Here, Sid and Gonch celebrate the game winning goal. It sort of looks like Sid might be stoked about winning. :P

In case you were wondering, this is how the Sid v Alex table looks following tonight's game:


The Pens next face the Sabres for an indoor game this Saturday. Then, it's off to the Ralph Wilson Stadium for the Winter Classic!!!!! GO PENS!!! :)


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