David Steckel Rocks the Red Hard Hat
From high above the ice in the press box, HM can tell you that the Phone Booth was shaking to its foundation with the loud cheers (and boos for Cindy and pals) before the first puck even dropped. After the puck dropped, the first few minutes saw heavy hits from Milan Jurcina, John Erskine and Matt Bradley. Mike Green made like a freight train and flattened the Pens' Maxime Talbot on an open ice hit. Unfortunately, the diving captain himself, Sid the Kid, got on the board first. The opening minutes of the first period were eerily remiscient of Games One and Two versus the Rangers.
Later on, Sid got knocked on his keister by big, bad John Erskine, who sent the Pen's captain's helmet flying. At 10:44, Feds was called for interference and the Caps went into defensive mode. There were few times where the guys looked like they were playing putt-putt in their failure to clear the puck to the other end. The men in red killed the penalty with lots of help from Simeon Varlamov.
At 13:15 in the first David Steckel netted his first playoff goal of this series going five-hole on Marc-Andre Fleury, with help from his pals Matt Bradley and blazin' Brooks Laich! After former Caps Sergei Gonchar took a seat for interference the home team went on a power play - which we all know is lethal. Another former Capital Matt Cooke took a seat as well after hooking Ovie and gave the Caps a 5-on-3. The Penguins paid dearly for those errors, as Backstrom passed to Semin, who passed to AO, who proceeded to smoke MA Fleury and steal the lead 2 goals to 1. So the Caps went into the locker room at the end of the first with a lead but started the second short-handed after their leader, Chris Clark went to the sin bin.
The Penguins got several lucky bounces at the start of the second as a bunch of Capitals' shots slid through the blue paint right by Fleury, but never crossed the red line. Ovie was a bull in a china shop, pounding Sergei Gonchar into the glass and later making a sweet pass to Fedorov, who took a direct shot at Fleury's glove. At around the 11-minutes mark, Captain Clark took another penalty and the Caps had another magnificent penalty kill. Of course they had lots of help from young Varlamov, who made several outstanding saves. The crowd went nuts for the young net minder every time he denied the rival ice birds! The Bradley-Steckel-Laich line was on fire today - well done today boys.
But alas while Caps' d-man Milan Jurcina was busy giving Geno Malkin a face wash, the Penguins' Mark Eaton slid one by Varly's glove to tie the game at 2-2.
The save of the game (and highlight reel play for sure) came at the three-minute mark when Chris Kunitz passed to Crosby on a breakaway and just when you thought the puck was a goner, Varly kicked it out with his stick within ONE SECOND of it crossing into the land of no return!
Third period, the Caps got on the board to again take the lead. This one was courtesy of Tomas Fleischmann (who's rocking the red with his own new red playoff beard) with assists from Nick Backstrom and Alex Semin. I have to say that HM has never heard this building as loud as it was today (okay so I wasn't here for Game 7) - the noise and passion in the Phone Booth gave me goosebumps!
The hits definitely seemed to ramp up toward the middle of the final period; Brooks Laich got steamrolled by ice fowl Brooks Orpik. The Caps' penalty kill closed out another Penguins' power play after John Erskine went off for a trip - fabulous effort by those guys. The Penguins' frustration finally reached the boiling point at the five-minute mark, ending with a spirited scrum in front of Varly's house. Also worth noting, Hart trophy nominee Evgeni Malkin was held in check today, but HM knows that he is going to break out eventually.
Once the boys got their momentum going after some shaky play in the first period, their offense, penalty kill and remarkable play from Varly led to the celebration of a 3-2 Game One victory!
When Sidney Crosby was asked in the post-game press conference if he'd ever had a better save made on him than the one made by Varlamov today, he quipped "Yeah, I try to forget them though," drawing some laughs from the media gallery.
So a great way to kick off this series - Monday brings a new day and a new game. Until then, hope all you great Caps fans have a great weekend and relish this sweet victory over our rivals!