Can't Crack the Egg: Capitals Shut Out Penguins 3-0

Caps Blog: Japers Rink

The Pens haven't exactly been phenomenal without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, but they were still finding ways to win.  Sunday's game against the Capitals is an example of the worst-case scenario given the recent injuries to hit the team.  No reason to his the panic button just yet, but the events on NBC didn't exactly go as planned.

More on the game after the jump...

Whenever the Pens are on the wrong end of a shutout, it's important to try and focus on the positives.  Given the circumstances of this game, even that is hard to do.  However, one of the upsides of the game was the highly anticipated David Steckel fight.  Would it happen?  Who would go?  That's what Pens fans were left wondering heading into the game, and it took almost 50 minutes of game time to get that answer.  Props to Tim Wallace for dropping the mitts to take on Steckel, but ultimately the fight was rather uneventful.  Here's to hoping that puts an end to it and both teams can move on from the lingering drama.

However, if another dramatic moment were to spring from this game, it would be the late third-period knee-to-knee between Matt Cooke and his former teammate and friend Alex Ovechkin.  The NBC announcers would go as far as to say it was "accidentally on purpose," and one could even argue that Cooke did look like he tried to cut back on Ovie as he took the inside of the ice, but any way you look at it the knee-to-knee did not sit well with the Caps or Ovechkin.  Cooke was on the receiving end of a few gloved punches to the face, while Ovechkin left the ice in a bit of pain, but in the end Cookie served two minutes for tripping and Ovie resumed play without any obvious pain or discomfort.  In the end, he remained pointless on the game and extended his scoreless power-play drought at home one more game.

An element of the Capitals' game that definitely gave the Penguins fits comes in the team's ability to shut down lanes, intercept passes and just throw their bodies in front of shots.  According to the official event summary on NHL.com, the Caps just barely edged out the Pens in the shotblocking department by the tally of 18-15, but I for one thought that number would be heavier in Washington's favor.  Perhaps a number of those blocks came in the third period, because it didn't look like the Pens could get anything going there.

Another quiet game from Eric Tangradi, who came within a total of about six minutes of ice time and spent two minutes in the box for a hooking call in the second period.  Thankfully the penalty kill held the Capitals scoreless on four opportunities.  Otherwise, this game could have been much worse.

Marc-Andre Fleury did his part to keep it close.  It didn't look like the defense was up for helping him much today, but without some of his solid saves it could have easily been a 5-0 finale in favor of the Caps.  The first goal he let up came courtesy of Brooks Laich, who managed to get the inside of the ice for a rebound goal, but that second one that came courtesy of Marcus Johannson's backhand was just flukey.  No other way to really describe it.  But it is a textbook example of how a shot on goal can lead to good things.  He couldn't have placed that shot more perfectly if he tried.

A rematch against the Caps and the final meeting of the regular season awaits on Feb. 21.  Until then it's the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, followed by the Kings on Thursday.

Not an ideal way for the city to kick off Super Bowl Sunday, but a lot can change over the next few hours.  The bitter Jets fan in me has returned to his familiar place in the postseason - hibernation. 

On that note, go Steelers, if only because I hate Aaron Rodgers' face and his stupid touchdown dance.

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