It's hard to feel like the seventh round of a shootout was a fitting ending to what was 65 minutes of playoff-style hockey, with the Capitals and Penguins exchanging a multitude of hits and exciting plays (even if there weren't seven goals in this one).
But that's the way it wrapped up, with Pascal Dupuis scoring the game-winning marker in a 3-2 victory for Pittsburgh as the 14th player to try his luck in the shootout. Alex Ovechkin and Kris Letang scored on each team's first chance in the tie-break session but the next 11 skaters would fail to convert. While it wasn't the outcome they wanted, the method was something the Capitals, for the most part, were pleased with. Also, it's hard to ask for more as a prelude to the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.
"If they can play like that every night I'll be happy," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They had passion, they played arguably, right now, the best team in the league...to a standstill. Whether it's a moral victory or whatever, you'd love the two points, of course, but I thought we played very well and it was one very hard-earned point."
Perhaps the most difficult part of this game to accept for Washington was nearly a game-winning goal in overtime by defenseman Mike Green, who had what Boudreau dubbed "his best game in a long time."
Green waited for Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury to stretch out on the ice before feeding the puck toward the open cage and just under the goaltender's glove. The puck never escaped the confines of Fleury's mitt though, and even if it appeared as though it crossed the goal line there was no conclusive video evidence to show that it did.
Asked if he thought if the play was a goal, Green replied, stone-faced: "One hundred percent. I'm not going to sleep."
With or without that play, though, it was noticeably, as Boudreau said, one of Green's better games in recent memory.
"He played good defensively and yet he jumped into the play and made things happen offensively," Boudreau said. "You could see his reaction when he scored; it was like the weight of the world came off his shoulders and he looked like a different guy after that. Save for the fact that you can't see through leather, we probably would have won the game."
If you missed Green's reaction to his shot from the slot on the power play in the second period that rocketed over Fleury's glove to tie the game at 1, he just sighed with his arms dropped to his sides. That tally at the 13:43 mark of the second ended a 14-game goal-scoring drought as the two-time Norris Trophy candidate had not scored since Nov. 14 against Atlanta.
Green, who at times needed some help getting over the bench in the third period, played a game-high 34:03 and took a physical pounding from the Penguins at numerous times, finished with a team-high six shots on goal and eight hits of his own. He blocked five shots as well.
--The Capitals finished 1 for 6 on the power play against the Penguins and their top-rated penalty kill. But that statistic doesn't fully explain that Washington couldn't convert on two separate 5-on-3 chances, including one that was 1:51 long just prior to Green's goal.
--Whether he actually prevented the puck from crossing the line on Green's chance in overtime or not, Fleury played a tremendously large role in this game and win for Pittsburgh. He made some improbable, instinctual saves as Washington was out-shooting and out-chancing his teammates early on.
"I think we played great. I think all four lines did [a] great job," Alex Ovechkin said. "We don't make some mistakes, finish checks, getting [pucks] deep, we have lots of shots. I know Fleury played unbelievable today. They are great players; [when] they have a chance, they use it. We have to use our chances."
--Boudreau said Tom Poti is day-to-day with a head injury after he left the game following a high stick to the head by Evgeni Malkin just 3:34 into the contest.
--Caught a glimpse of Boyd Gordon, who has missed the past five games with an injury -- the nature of which the team would not disclose -- after the contest and the veteran forward was walking with a boot on his right foot. Gordon also dealt with a knee injury earlier this season.
--The NHL's mandated two-day holiday break begins tomorrow. Teams will not practice, travel or have any media availability but we'll still have blog updates to get you through all that family time.