I mentioned watching last night's Caps game against Pittsburgh; as is usually the case, I wasn't able to watch it until the kids were in bed.
Things looked a tad better for the Caps, as Kuznetsov was ready to go, with Laich and Dima returning (from injury and suspension, respectively).
The center situation looked a tad better, with Beagle demoted from second to fourth line, and MarJo slotting in on the second.
And the play that resulted was a lot better. In fact, possessionally, it was the Caps third- or fourth-best game of the season.
Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start as, on Crosby's first shift, Green tried to jump a pass going cross-ice from Crosby to Kunitz, and missed. That send Kunitz in alone, and he fooled Halak with a short-side backhander.
Fehr scored a nice goal (off a good pass from Chimmer, from a very nice off-the-wall drop pass from Ward) only a couple minutes later. It was very nicely played from skate (in front!) to stick by Fehr, who was charging down the right side.
But that was answered less than a minute later, with Crosby scoring on a one-timer (marking his 18th (!) career, multipoint game against the Caps. I'm not sure, but I think a separate graphic during the telecast said it was only his 33rd regular season game versus Washington) from the circle on the power play. Kunitz did a very nice job winning the draw back, a few seconds before. But it was an amusing goal, as it was basically a mirror image of many of OV's power play goals.
Play was pretty even (slight edge to Washington, which surprised me when I saw it) the rest of the period.
Early in the second, helped by a power play, Washington opened up a big edge in possession, which eventually culminated in Laich tipping in a Backstrom pass (for some reason, nhl.com has this as Backstrom from Laich) for a goal. It was a very similar play to Chimmer's power play goal from a month or two back, except that Laich went straight in front of the goal, rather than circling around the back.
Washington continued to play well, but Pittsburgh scored a few minutes later when Crosby's shot rebounded right to Kunitz, charging down the other side, and Chris put it past Halak. Backstrom was in position on the back-check, but missed the puck when it came to him. Very unfortunate.
Actually, extremely unfortunate, as that turned out to be the winning goal. The Caps had quite a few more chances, but were unable to put any of them past Zatkoff to tie the game.
The one criticism I have is for Oates (who is now 0-6-0 against Pittsburgh; I don't think Bylsma fears Oates, exactly), who, when the Caps got a power play (too many men; precipitated by a very nice charge up-ice by Dima) with just over two minutes, kept Halak on the ice for about a minute. No concept of going for it, apparently.
Overall, the Caps played very, very well, and deserved to win. But they're past the point in the season where moral victories matter; they need to win damned-near all the remaining games if they want to get to the playoffs.
As to the parts of the team, the first and third lines looked very good (especially the third, which was mostly going against the Crosby line; though Pitt's first goal was scored against them). The fourth line did too, actually; in fact, Beagle and Kuzya had the top two Corsi's on the team. Kuz didn't try to do anything big and dramatic; I think he's still trying to get comfortable. But he looked good out there, making the right play. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come.
The power play looked very good, with fourteen attempted shots in five minutes and change (ten on net). Disappointed that they couldn't put at least one more in the net, but they did what they could.
The PK, I think, did pretty well. They held Pittsburgh to nine shots attempted in four and a quarter minutes. That's not a terribly good number, but not bad when you're facing the top power play in the league.
Unfortunately, the loss puts the Caps in a very bad position (though identical to the one they were in, two years ago at the same point in the season). As stated before, there are no more moral victories. It was nice to outplay the Pens, but they need to win. Now.
And we don't need to wait; next game is tonight in Pittsburgh. Go Caps!