Third lead was not the charm

Well, as expected, Neuvy got the start in goal last night against the Penguins. One thing I forgot to mention about the Sharks game was that Fehr and Laich were flipped in the third period. That flip remained in effect last night.

So, with those caveats, it was the same lineup as the San Jose game.

And how did it go? Well, for sure it was a lot better than the last Penguins game (where the Caps were shut out in 5v5 Fenwick close); in fact, it started very well. For the first ten minutes or so, the Caps were doing a fantastic job of controlling the neutral zone, keeping Pittsburgh from setting up in the offensive zone.

After that, the Penguins started catching up, and things looked very bad when they got a power play just before the thirteen minute mark. But a bad breakout pass was corraled by Alzner, and pushed up to Laich around the offensive blue line. He was supported by Brouwer and fought off the defender to get a clean shot off from the low slot, which he put over Fleury's shoulder to open the scoring.

Pittsburgh kept catching up for the rest of the period, but didn't manage to tie the score.

The second period started pretty well for the Caps, although without a lot going on. Several minutes in, though, the Caps caught fire, and over the next six minutes or so, attempted thirteen shots to Pittsburgh's two. I was just saying to myself, "How can the Caps lose this game, playing like this," when Nicky made a mistake near the offensive blue line leading to a 4-on-2. Adding insult to injury, the scoring shot from that jailbreak went off Nicky's stick.

For several minutes after that, neither team could mount any sustained pressure, then Washington got a very good shift from the third line. That shift culminated in Orlov getting the puck at the left point, skating across a little, then passing to MarJo deep on the right side. He threw a one-touch pass to Chimmer in the crease for the tap-in goal.

And then, we saw Washington allow another goal only a minute-forty after scoring. It's really depressing how regularly that's happened, this season. It was some pretty terrible defense, with Erskine and Carrick both managing not to defend anyone (and Wilson made a rookie mistake, going down too early, to make it even worse).

The rest of the period was pretty much up-and-down the rink, with chances at both ends, but nobody managing to score.

The third opened with withering pressure from Pittsburgh, helped by an iffy power play that put Green in the box. No scoring resulted, but the Caps didn't manage any pressure until Erskine managed to draw matching minors with Malkin (who, it should be noted, had an incredible game), leading to 4-on-4 hockey. And the Caps took advantage of that, scoring a minute and a half later. OV got the tally, putting it past Fleury from the slot right after getting his stick slashed out of his hands (no call) for his thirty-fourth goal of the season.

But Pittsburgh kept up their pressure, and scored to tie it three minutes later. Pittsburgh was content to play defense for quite a while after that, but still scored on their next shot attempt, six and a half minutes later. From there, Washington mounted a furious charge to try to tie things up, but were unable (helped by OV breaking two sticks about thirty seconds apart in that final flurry).

To break it down, I think Neuvy had an ok night. I don't remember any incredible saves, but none of the goals left me wondering why he didn't stop them, either.

The power play was ok, generating four shot attempts in two minutes and twenty seconds. The PK was better, allowing nine attempts in four minutes and forty or so, but scoring Laich's goal.

At evens, the team did pretty well, staying just on the right side of 50% against a very good possession team. Oddly, the fourth line did very well, and the other three were pretty tightly clustered. One thing I can't figure out; the third pairing was used as the shutdown line, getting most of their starts in the DZone (5/6 non-neutral starts). The other two pairings only had four D-zone faceoffs between them.

A couple of notes of interest: especially in the first period, the Penguins were going power vs power, playing Crosby's line against OV's (and that seemed to work pretty well for them). Also, I thought the Pens rarely played Crosby and Malkin together (other than power plays, of course), but they did it quite a bit in the second half of the first period.

One other change from ten games ago: the breakouts looked quite good. They were crisp and fast. What made it even more interesting (and I don't know if this was a function of Dima's vision, or of good coaching beforehand), a couple of times the Pens shut down bothoutside lanes, and Dima shot his breakout pass straight up the middle (from behind the net).

Anyway, not a bad game overall; the Caps didn't look outclassed. Disappointing to see them lose the lead three times, of course, but I chalk that up to luck more than anything. It was a loss, and not gaining any ground in the standings is disappointing, but it wasn't a dispiriting loss.

Next up are the Blue Jackets, in Ohio, on Friday. Let's hope the play continues to be very solid, and the luck turns around a bit. Go Caps!

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