The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals played a pretty close game yesterday. The offensive stars on both teams each had a couple of chances. Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby both scored. Marc-Andre Fleury and Simeon Varlamov both made clutch saves when necessary.
However, both teams also had their share of defensive lapses. Both goaltenders had their weak moments as well. But the reason the Penguins lost was quite clear.
While Simeon Varlamov’s save on Crosby was outstanding, it wasn’t the main reason Washington was victorious.
No, the Capitals won and the Penguins lost because of the Pens’ terrible performance with the man advantage.
They went 0-for-5 on the power play. A goal on any one of those advantages would have tied up the game.
However, the problem wasn’t even the lack of goal scoring on the power play. The problem was that the Penguins play with the man advantage was so inept that the Capitals actually gained momentum and confidence with every Penguins power play.
With the man advantage Pittsburgh had trouble breaking into the Capitals zone. They had trouble generating shots from anywhere other than the perimeter. They had no action in front of the Washington net. Two out of three Capital goals were scored from right in front of the net. The lack of a presence in front of Varlamov seriously hurt the Penguins.
While on the power play the Pittsburgh Penguins looked like a completely different team. This built momentum for the Capitals. Washington dominated the Pens during their own power play. This gave them momentum and took the life right out of the Pens.
You don’t have to look any further than the very first Capitals penalty to see this.
The Penguins came out strong. They put immense pressure on the Capitals defense and they looked like they were setting the tone for the rest of the game. Sidney Crosby scored just over four minutes into the game and the Penguins looked like the better team to start the period.
Then Sergei Fedorov took an interference penalty and it all fell apart for the Penguins. By the time the period was over it was 2-1 Capitals.
The Pens came back in the second and tied up the game. The Capitals took another penalty and the Penguins withered with the man advantage. Two more Washington penalties in the third sealed the game for the Pens.
The Penguins power play has struggled all season, but it has been getting progressively worse throughout the playoffs. If the Penguins cannot capitalize with the man advantage it leaves their opponents with free reign to commit fouls. This means the Pens will get fewer scoring chances at even strength and they will continue to lose games.
If Pittsburgh hopes to win this series they desperately need to get their power play clicking. Otherwise the Capitals will dominate them.