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Washington Capitals fans brave snowstorm for game against rival Pittsburgh Penguins

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 8, 2010; D05

For the second time in three days, Washington Capitals fans had to contend with the blizzard of 2010 during their travels to Verizon Center. On Friday night, they came as the storm was just getting started for a game against Atlanta, and on Sunday afternoon, they braved the aftermath to watch the hottest team in hockey play Pittsburgh, the Stanley Cup champion and Washington's bitter rival.

The Capitals made that potentially hazardous journey meaningful for their supporters, who watched Mike Knuble score in overtime for a 5-4 triumph that included a hat trick from Alex Ovechkin.

The stands appeared three-quarters full by faceoff, but for a stretch, Capitals fans had little reason to cheer. Washington fell behind 4-1 in the second period before rallying furiously and bringing the sellout crowd to its feet in winning its 14th straight game.

"I am pretty excited, and I am excited for hockey that that game was put on TV today," Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the nationally televised event. "That's what people pay to see."

It certainly was worth the money for Capitals fans Frank Connolly, 45, and Ingo Burghardt, 42, who rode in together from Vienna with their families in Connolly's sport-utility vehicle. They said the trip took approximately 40 minutes and that traffic was light on Interstate 66 into the city.

"Most of the people we saw were Caps fans going to the game," Burghardt said. "There were a lot of red jerseys."

Manny Pastreich, 41, also drove to the game and brought his two children, Sam, 3, and Julia, 8, in the family's four-wheel drive Ford Escape. They made the trip from the Shepherd Park neighborhood in Northwest Washington to Verizon Center in 20 minutes, taking 16th Street.

While District officials were urging commuters to avoid the roads and use public transportation, taking Metrorail wasn't exactly hassle-free. At the Farragut North stop, red-line trains were running infrequently, and a train arriving around 11:30 a.m. stalled at the station.

Many aggravated Capitals fans groaned as they exited the packed subway cars, rode the escalator back up to the station exit and began walking to Verizon Center. That trip took roughly 20 minutes and included plenty of slipping and falling on partly shoveled sidewalks and frozen streets.

Getting to the nation's capital proved more challenging for the Penguins, who arrived after 2 a.m. Sunday. Pittsburgh lost in Montreal on Saturday afternoon, then flew to Newark and bused into town.

"Most of these guys have done that quite a bit in their career in the American [Hockey] League or growing up," Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don't think it was at all out of the ordinary for any of these guys. It wasn't what we expected when they put the schedule together, but it happened, and it wasn't out of the ordinary."

Capitals players said they had no issues getting to the game, although Boudreau stayed at a hotel because power at his home went out. Team owner Ted Leonsis, meantime, posted an entry to his blog on Sunday morning informing fans that he was digging out in hopes of arriving in time for the noon faceoff.

"I have been shoveling and hoping to get to the game today at noon," Leonsis wrote. "My neighborhood has had power outages for the last 25 hours or so."

A Capitals official confirmed that Leonsis did, in fact, make it to the arena before the game began.

"Oh no, I had my truck," right wing Eric Fehr, who scored in the second period to cut the deficit to 4-2, said when asked if the aftereffects of the storm hampered his travels to the arena. "I was plowing snow out there. It was awesome. I had a lot of fun out there."

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