Well that sure was a punch in the gut.
The Caps came into last night's game tired, having played the night before. The Pens entered the game rusty, having not played since before the Christmas break. Predictably, the game was ugly. Equally predictably, the tired team got more tired and the rusty team got less rusty. And while it's difficult to pin a loss like this on a coaching decision, you've got to question Bruce Boudreau sending Brooks Laich out to take the defensive zone faceoff at the end of the Pens' power play late in the third. Laich was 1-for-4 in his faceoffs up to that point (48.1% on the season entering the game) and lost the draw to Erik Christensen that Darryl Sydor sent bouncing off Milan Jurcina and into the goal to tie the game. The right call would have been to call a timeout and send Boyd Gordon back back out there for the draw. It would have meant Sidney Crosby in the dot for the Pens rather than Christensen, but Sid was only at 42% for the night and, more importantly, 0-for-3 against Gordon. The result may very well have cost the Caps a point and handed the Pens two, and the Caps simply can't afford a three-point swing like that in the Conference.
Some more thoughts on a heartbreaking loss:
- Initial reports had Alex Ovechkin out for a week with a cut on his inner thigh, but GMGM said he won't miss a game. We shall see.
- Brent Johnson is out two-to-four weeks. Maybe the Caps should sign this guy to back up Olie Kolzig for the next stretch.
- Sergei Gonchar giveth, and Sergei Gonchar taketh away. Classic Gonch.
- Nicklas Backstrom is so... effing... good (despite his misplay at the point that led the the Jeff Taffe goal).
- Thanks to our buddy Hooks Orpik for passing along this vid of his pregame ritual. Good stuff.
- From the "Stats can be misleading" file, Viktor Kozlov led the team with a plus-two rating.
- Donald Brashear had a very effective night overall, as did Olie in relief of B.J.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Even fancypants political commentators know that Wednesday night's crowd was awesome.... Sidney Crosby needs help. Clearly.... Vote Weagle!
- Hart: Ville Koistenen (Game-winning goal, 2A, +3, 7 SOG)
- Ross: Eric Belanger, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ville Koistenen, Marek Zidlicky (3 points each)
- Norris: Ville Koistenen (Game-winning goal, 2A, +3, 7 SOG)
- Vezina: Niklas Backstrom (W, 46 saves on 48 shots against)
- Richard: Ilya Kovalchuk, Joffrey Lupul, Bill Guerin, Valtteri Filppula, Nathan Horton (2G each)
- Calder: Nicklas Backstrom (2A, 67% faceoffs won, 3 takeaways, 0 giveaways)
- Aiken: Miikka Kiprusoff (L, 5 goals allowed on 20 shots against)