Pittsburgh Penguins Rout Washington Capitals, 6-2, in Game 7
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The night began with Verizon Center pulsating to "Let's Go Caps," chanted by a capacity crowd at an eardrum-splitting decibel level.
But by the time the game had reached the halfway mark, the audience was mostly motionless and silent, filled with stunned fans who couldn't believe what was unfolding before them. Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals were behind by five goals against their most reviled rival en route to a humbling 6-2 defeat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"The reason they won the game is because they outworked us," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "It's not easy to stand here and say that we've been outworked in our building in a Game 7. That's not something that's easy to say, but I'm sure we're going to have to think about that for a long time."
Led by 21-year-old Sidney Crosby (two goals, one assist), the Pittsburgh Penguins outshot the Capitals 16-5 in the first period, struck twice in an eight-second span early and cruised to a second straight conference final appearance. They'll face either Carolina or Boston.
The Capitals, meantime, went down quietly, falling to 1-2 under Coach Bruce Boudreau in playoff series, all three decided in seven games.
Last night's lopsided loss was a stunner -- except maybe to longtime Capitals fans who've watched the Penguins toast a playoff victory at their expense more times than they care to remember. To be exact: Pittsburgh has eliminated the Capitals seven times in eight meetings, coming from behind in six of those series.
This collapse, though, might have been the most painful of them all, perhaps because nothing could have foretold a blowout of this magnitude. All but one of the previous six games in the series had been decided by only one goal, three of them in overtime.
"It was definitely anticlimactic," Boudreau said, referring to the first six games, which provided high drama as the NHL's top three scorers battled with everything on the line. "It certainly wasn't the way I would have envisioned it, scripted it, you know, whether we won or lost."
Boudreau revealed after the game that several of his key players had been playing through serious injuries, specifically acknowledging defenseman Mike Green and Ovechkin. It's also believed that Alexander Semin played through an injury that might have sidelined him in the regular season, while Tom Poti said he suffered a broken foot in Game 1 of this series.
What impact those injuries had on the series may never be known. This much, however, was clear: The Capitals, as a team, did not play with enough verve to earn a victory against a Penguins team that played with a sense of purpose from the opening faceoff.
Before the game was 23 minutes old, young Simeon Varlamov had yielded four goals on 18 shots and was replaced by veteran José Theodore. The Capitals' postseason run had been fueled by the 21-year-old rookie.
Varlamov, though, wasn't totally to blame. At least two of the goals he allowed were of questionable quality, but he also didn't get much help from his teammates, who were outplayed in almost every sense of the word. They took bad penalties. They lost critical puck battles, and they made mental miscues when they could least afford a letdown.