Strong Effort by Pens but Not Strong Enough: Caps Blank Pens 1-0

PITTSBURGH PA - FEBRUARY 21: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck up ice past Jordan Staal #11 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period of the NHL game at Consol Energy Center on February 21 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Caps Blog: Japers Rink

Alex Ovechkin notched the only goal of the game as the Washington Capitals beat the Penguins 1-0.  For a low-scoring game it was at least an exciting one, but this is what you can come to expect any time the Pens and Caps meet up.

More after the jump.

Right from the start it looked like a much different Caps-Pens game then any other this year.  For starters, it took the Capitals 10 minutes just to get a shot on goal. Even still, that first shot looked like a prime opportunity as Ovie broke away from the pack, but Marc-Andre Fleury came up big and set the tone for the rest of the period. Michael Neuvirth answered with a big save on Jordan Staal on the other end, but that was pretty much the end of the excitement for one period. All in all, the Pens looked like a team intent on getting this win. Easily the best they've looked in weeks. Fired up from the trade? Hungry for a win against the Caps? Whatever the case, I liked what I saw in that first 20 minutes. Especially the part where Washington ended the first with only seven shots to Pittsburgh's 18.

The second period started with both teams playing in the shadows of Consol - or something like it, as the arena had some issues with the lights. Eventually the situation did sort itself out, but as JustinM said in the game thread, it was like watching a football game in the fog for a little while there.

Later in the second, much to the joy of Capitals/Bruins/Blue Jackets/(Your team here) fans, Matt Cooke was on the receiving end of a big Matt Bradley hit. You could say it was clean, maybe even a slight shoulder/elbow to head at the end, but let's be honest - who is Cooke to stand up and cry foul? Ultimately Staal's interest in standing up for a teammate superceded the common sense that would have put the Pens on the power play. Not that it mattered much at the time, seeing as how the Pens weren't exactly lighting the lamp on three previous chances.

Despite two shorthanded opportunities on the same power play with about three and a half minutes remaining in the second, the Penguins were unable to capitalize and notch the first goal of the game. On the other end of the ice though, Alex Ovechkin lasered one through on the man advantage to put the Caps up 1-0.

The third period was filled with prime chances for the Pens but it seemed like the Caps were closing out lanes, blocking shots and manning up on the puck handler to make life extremely difficult on the Pens. Nothing got through to Neuvirth and even if it did he swallowed it up. I will credit the Penguins on this though - nice to see a lot of traffic in front of the net. Even if the Caps defenders were bullying Pens forwards out of the crease and Neuvirth's line of sight, it was still an encouraging sign to see the offense wasn't asleep at the wheel.

The loss is a loss and that's the way it goes, but unlike some losses the Pens took this year, this one was not for lack of trying. Tons of hard work out there and it will no doubt carry over to the two new guys coming into town.

Exciting things lie ahead. It's just another regular season game at this point. Wednesday the Sharks, and then things better get serious as the Pens head out on a five-game road trip.

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