The term "statement game" is one of those overused sports clichés, but that's just what the Washington Capitals had last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. No, the Caps 6-3 win on the road wasn't necessarily a proclamation to the Pens, or even the rest of the NHL, rather it was statement to themselves.
Coming off a loss to Edmonton the previous night, the third in a row which spawned a flock of anxious boo-birds from the faithful in DC, the Capitals were able to persevere through tentative beginnings in Pittsburgh. The season's first meeting between these two franchises, with a decorated history that precedes individual concerns among Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin and Sidney Crosby, was much hyped around the web beforehand.
Blood was indeed drawn in the game's early going (a wrister by Mike Green ricocheted off the face of Penguins defenseman Robert Scuderi), but otherwise both teams came out hesitant to antagonize each other. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau undoubtedly instructed his players to ignore extracurricular distractions and play together as if it were just another game. However, this might have worked to the detriment of the Caps as they lacked aggression, committed careless turnovers, and did not move the puck well. Washington found themselves down 1-0 after a first period that could have been worse.
Wasington tied the game early in the 2nd as Marc-Andre Fleury could not glove a blast from Viktor Kozlov, but it wasn't until the middle of the period when the Caps began to come together. Sergei Fedorov hit Semin with a crisp backdoor pass for a goal, notching the game at 2-2 with 7:20 left, and Ovechkin began to throw his weight around while keeping within the flow of the game.
In the final period, Jose Theodore (26 saves) continued to make needed stops while the Caps outscored the Pens 4-1 behind quickness and second chance opportunities. Alexander the Great left the ice with the satisfaction of two goals and a win. Sid the Kid, leaving the game late, banged up and bruised, might as well put an 'S' in front of the 'K' as his team fell to 2-6 in 2009.