It’s always a fair question to ask if there can really be a rivalry between two teams when one is much better than the other. And after Sunday’s matinee at the Verizon Center, there’s little doubt that the Pittsburgh Penguins are better than the Washington Capitals in all phases of the game.
Chris Kunitz picked up a hat trick as the visiting Pens used a three-goal second period to blow open a close game and take out the Capitals 6-3. Sidney Crosby added three assists, while former Washington goalie Tomas Vokounmade 21 saves.
The Capitals had the game tied 2-2 in the second after a fluky John Carlson goal at the 4:03 mark. With Vokoun skating out to stop the puck for his defensemen, Carlson’s routine dump off the glass took a strange carom and headed straight into the net.
Little would go Washington’s way the rest of the way. Kris Letang and Kunitz scored very similar goals less than a minute apart on shots that looked like they should have been stopped by Caps goalie Braden Holtby. Kunitz added his second of the game on the power play with 6:01 left in the second, again beating Holtby on his stick side.
Mike Ribeiro pulled one back for the home team 3:33 into the final frame, cashing in with the man advantage after a good passing play by Alex Ovechkin and Tory Brouwer found him in the slot. But any hope of a comeback was squashed when a bad turnover while trying to get Holtby off for an extra skater almost gave Crosby an easy breakaway.
Holtby made the save, but the ensuing scrum saw both Carlson and Ovechkin called for minor penalties. The Penguins patiently executed in the 5-on-3 and were able to free Kunitz up to fire home his third goal of the game. The Caps had played a disciplined game up to that point, taking just one minor in the first 40 minutes.
Washington still hasn’t scored more than three goals in a game in 2013, and the team’s already poor defensive numbers took another hit with the six-spot. Coach Adam Oates will have two days to try to find some answers before the Toronto Maple Leafs come to visit on Tuesday night.
The game was over when…
Obviously the late 5-on-3 didn’t help, but the Caps’ last real chance to make it a game came and went when Robert Bortuzzo went off for high-sticking with just over six minutes left in regulation. With the exception of Ribeiro’s goal, the Washington power play did an excellent job of setting up in the offensive zone but was pretty poor in generating good scoring chances, and the first unit managed just one shot from Brouwer on that crucial man advantage.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
Again, it’s using the term hero loosely in a three-goal home loss, but a shout goes to Eric Fehr, Joey Crabb and Matt Hendricks for one particularly high energy shift in the first period. With that trio hitting everyone in sight and keeping the Pens pinned in their own zone, Dan Bylsma was forced to use his timeout early in the game. Of course he ended up not needing it later, but that’s beside the point.