With all the injuries suffered by both clubs in recent weeks, we knew going into this one that a win would require a total team effort. And that's exactly what we got, from both teams - when they were on the whole team was on; when one person was horrible everyone was. It wasn't pretty or clean, but it was fast-paced, exciting, entertaining, and decided by an oddly fitting shootout.
As Caps fans, this one could not have been more bizarre or more filled with those moments when you just knew it would go the way the last seven have gone in the Igloo. Multiple penalties including an extended 5 on 3 in overtime, blown leads, end to end action, missing key players...it was a recipe for disaster.
And yet somehow they pulled it out.
Credit a team that never seems to get down when falling behind. Credit a fantastic performance by the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov. Credit Dave Steckel, Jeff Schultz and especially Quintin Laing for some of the best penalty killing we've seen in a long while.
And major major bonus points to Malkin and the rest of the Penguins for really making this one entertaining. A little too entertaining at times, sure, but that was some scrappy hockey played out there and it was definitely a game worthy of "national" TV. That Malkin kid's got a future in the NHL, you know?
Speaking of kids having a future...Nicklas Backstrom, welcome to the NHL. As if he hasn't been impressive enough lately, tonight is the first (but probably not last) time he makes NHL history, notching back to back four assist games as a rookie.
There were some not so pretty things tonight, of course. Penalty killing, save for the crazy 5 on 3 in the overtime, was rocky against a Penguins power play that has struggled a bit lately. Alexander Semin and Mike Green both had incredibly rough games, with Semin taking two bad penalties and only redeeming himself in the shootout and Green being credited for 3 turnovers.
If there's anything this game shows us, it's the value of someone like Shaone Morrisonn in the lineup...both for the team and for Mike Green. No goals, no assists, 3 turnovers and many many glaring defensive mistakes. He's just not the same player when he doesn't have Mo watching his back - I think we all can agree that Morrisonn can't get back soon enough.
But in the end what matters is the win - a HUGE win for the Caps, another shootout win, two points to stay on pace with the Hurricanes, and a fourth straight victory for the first time this year. I have but one word to sum up this evening.
...anyone up for another trip up to Canada?