Kind of strange for it to happen so early in the year, but the Pens and Caps met for the 4th and final time this season. The Pens came in hoping to even up the season series and were also looking for their first regular season win in Pittsburgh since Caps coach Dale Hunter actually played in the NHL (well, not quite, but almost). The fans were treated to a pretty entertaining game that featured big performances from the star players. Check out our photos and video after the jump.
The Caps may be having some problems this season, but they came into Pittsburgh with the swagger of a team playing in a building where they've grown accustomed to winning.
Mike Knuble, a name that still strikes fear in the heart of Pens fans.
It was nice to see all 17 Caps fans who were at the game come down to the glass to support their team during warm-up.
Ovechkin was poised for another big game in the friendly confines of Consol Energy Center.
Pens fans weren't shy about letting their feelings toward Ovechkin be known.
Fair is fair. I posted the pictures of the foolish Caps fans in DC with their customized Malkin/Crosby Sucks jerseys. Here's a fella who is obviously not a fan of Ovechkin and he's not afraid to show it in the least tasteful way.
Oh yeah, the Pens also warmed up before the game.
This was the NBC Game of the Week, and Cy "Malkamania" Clark was ready for the occasion.
LET'S GET IT ON!!!
Washington took an early penalty and Kris Letang capitalized on the opportunity, giving the Pens a quick 1-0 lead.
A little over a minute later Evgeni Malkin assisted on Jame's Neal's goal to make it 2-0. The Pens continued to apply pressure throughout the period.
Eric Tangradi's high-sticking penalty (not pictured below) would give Washington a power play that would carry over to the 2nd period.
The Caps came out looking to make a game of it in the 2nd period, and Mike Knuble very nearly lived up to his Penguin-killing reputation with this early chance that went off the post and made its way harmlessly through the crease.
"Haha, not this time f***face!" (Marc-Andre Fleury's actual comments have been edited for content)
Little bit of pressure at the other end.
Ovechkin came out with a very physical shift intended to change the momentum of the game. Below he fights his way past Orpik and lays a big hit on Z in the corner. But the results of this effort by the Caps captain were not immediately apparent.
The Caps were starting to wonder if this might not be their day.
Hold that thought. Michalek's elbowing and Orpik's holding calls gave the Caps a 5-on-3. Brooks Laich took that as a signal to relocate the #OccupyPittsburgh movement to Fleury's crease.
Brouwer's cross checking made it a 4-on-3 and Dupuis' broken stick made it a virtual 4-on-2.
Laich finally cashed in, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 2-1.
Alex Semin tied the game a few minutes later, after which the Pens decided to take the play to the other end of the ice for a while.
A missed opportunity for TK led to an altercation behind the net. Kennedy and Brouwer came out of it with the gloves dropped and fists flying. Video below. The Pens ended up with the power play from Matt Hendricks' tripping call.
A little over a minute later Knuble went off for holding. The Pens (I think) called the timeout to rest their top power play group. It was here that we learned that Matt Cooke is now, apparently, Geno's towel boy.
Nothing materialized on the power play and Matt Hendricks found himself with a decent chance to put his team ahead late in the 2nd.
Ovechkin had picked up a couple of assists and was playing well, but had been kept mostly in check by the Pens D. That ended when he and Alex Semin hooked up for the go ahead goal just a minute into the 3rd (not pictured above, but that gives you the general idea...two Alexes, no defense).
The Pens had blown a 2-goal lead. Nothing new there, right? No lead is safe, that's what the new NHL is all about. But these aren't the 2010-11 Pens, where we basically would have said game over, let's watch some football. These are the Pens who make 3rd period comebacks and win games. As far as fans were concerned, the game had finally started.
James Neal connected for his second goal of the game, again set up by Geno. The game was tied and would head to overtime.
In the extra frame, Neuvirth was under fire.
Finally Malkin ended it.
Once again, NBC was rewarded for selecting Pens-Caps as their Sunday game, even though when that decision was made these looked like the last two teams you'd want to see play. And now, through the magic of the NHL, each team can claim a winning record over the other (2-1-1) on the season and look forward to a possible meeting in the first round of the playoffs. Our next game will be Feb 11 vs Winnepeg. We'll be back with more photos and video after that one.