Capitals take giant step backward

Capitals take giant step backward
November 21, 2013, 12:30 am
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Caps' loss to Penguins "was pretty brutal"

Perhaps the only positive thing that can be drawn from the Capitals’ 4-0 train wreck against the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night at Verizon Center is that no one got hurt.

In what was billed as a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins outplayed the Capitals in every phase of the game, serving notice that they are the team to beat – if not in the Eastern Conference, then certainly in the Metropolitan Division.

“It’s disappointing, extremely disappointing,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said after seeing the Caps outshot 40-18.

“They were amazing through the neutral zone. They came with speed every single time, always had three guys. If not three, then four. They didn’t give us any time to pinch. It was a great game by them and a bad game by us.”

[INSTANT ANALYSIS: Caps rocked at home by Penguins]

The Caps showed some jump early and drew a tripping penalty on Craig Adams 3:24 into the game. But after Alex Ovechkin rang a shot off the right post on the power play, the Penguins turned the tide and built a 2-0 lead on goals by defenseman Paul Martin and Beau Bennett.

Sidney Crosby beat Brooks Laich on a faceoff on the first goal, a seeing-eye shot that Braden Holtby says he never saw.

Holtby saw the Penguins’ second goal, a hard but stoppable shot by Bennett that found its way inside the far left post.

The Penguins owned a territorial edge throughout the second period, but it was a too many men penalty late in the period that led to Crosby’s killer power-play goal with 29 seconds remaining.

With 1:34 left in the second period and the Caps trailing 2-0, Troy Brouwer broke his stick and returned to the bench to retrieve a new one. Capitals coach Adam Oates told Tom Wilson to replace Brouwer, not realizing Brouwer would grab a stick from the bench to give the Caps six skaters.

“My fault,” Oates said. “I told Willy to go and [Brouwer] was just getting another stick. My fault.”

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Crosby’s power-play goal was a thing of beauty. The Penguins' captain finished off a passing play that began with Evgeni Malkin on the right halfwall, went to Chris Kunitz in the slot, down to James Neal at the goal line and over to Crosby in the left circle.

“Looks very similar to ours, doesn’t it?” Oates asked.

On most nights, yes. But the Caps’ second-ranked power play struggled as well against the Pens, failing on three attempts.

The building, which was filled with electricity at the start, fell quiet in the third period, except for occasional boos and a loud cheer when James Neal made it 4-0 on another unscreened shot. With the loss, Holtby fell to 0-4-0 against the Pens, with a 4.37 GAA and .874 save percentage. 

“We’re not the type of team that’s going to go out and have three guys start a fight,” Oates said, referencing the Nov. 1 donneybrook with the Flyers in Philadelphia . “That’s not who we are. We all know. We’re all big people here. The air gets taken out of the building. The fans are booing. They have a right to boo. They’re frustrated, too. We had done well at home before tonight. You gotta take your poison.”

The Capitals took theirs on Wednesday night and will need to wait until Jan. 15 to get their next crack at Crosby and the Pens in Pittsburgh.