Despite another outstanding performance by goalie Semyon Varlamov, the Washington Capitals were fairly dominated by the homestanding Pittsburgh Penguins in their 3-2 overtime loss on Wednesday night.
Varlamov, the just-turned 21-year-old rookie netminder, saved 39 of 42 shots, many in spectacular fashion.
But he could not stop the final shot, a slap shot from the point by Kris Letang, that was tipped and redirected past him by his own defenseman, Shaone Morrisonn.
The game-winner came at 11:23 of overtime, at the end of another flurry of shots and extended offensive-zone play for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh played most of the game in the Capitals' end, and it really showed on the scoresheet. The Penguins outshot the Caps 42-23 and were awarded seven power-play opportunities to the Capitals' two.
Washington was not happy about the imbalance of penalties handed out.
Alex Ovechkin, who had a goal and an assist, said, "I don't want to talk about the referees, too. They only had two penalties. It's kind of a joke."
Coach Bruce Boudreau did talk about the referees. "As far as penalties go, I hope I never hear them [the Penguins] complain about penalties again, picks, and everything else. I think we might have deserved the penalties, but they sure as hell deserved a few more than they got."
He again praised his goaltender, though. "When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win, because they don't come around every day."
The Caps owned play early, controlling the first ten minutes of the game. Ovechkin started the scoring at 1:23 of the first, as Pens' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury misplayed a puck behind his net, which sent the rubber in front of the goal to a charging Ovechkin, in the right place at the right time. Ovie buried it into the open net for his eighth goal of the playoffs.
Ruslan Fedotenko tied it midway through the second. Tom Poti got caught up ice, sending Fedotenko in on a two-on-one with Maxime Talbot against Morrisonn. Fedotenko tried to saucer a pass through Morrisonn, but the defenseman blocked the pass.
Unfortunately, he put it right back on the Russian winger's stick, and he lifted it past Varlamov, who had been sliding over to block Talbot.
Evgeni Malkin, who played a dominant Game Three after disappearing for the first two contests, scored Pittsburgh's go-ahead goal. With Alexander Semin off for hooking, he carried the puck into the offensive zone, deked Brooks Laich, carried to the high slot and shot high against a screened Varlamov for his fifth goal of the post-season, his first in this series.
"He [Malkin] was at another level," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He was dominant with the puck and he had the goal, which was fantastic."
Nicklas Backstrom netted the tying goal with 1:50 remaining. On just the Caps' second power play of the night, thanks to a Pascual Dupuis interference call, Backstrom had the puck along the goal line, and he banked the puck off Fleury's backside to send the game into overtime.
Pittsburgh was just one for seven on the power play, despite the obvious advantage. But where the advantage really showed was in the legs of the Capitals defenders. Washington was noticeably slow to the puck and lost most man-on-man battles—a sign of weariness.
The Caps were outhit in Game Three 44-31. The official scoresheet says that the Capitals committed only three giveaways, but the Pittsburgh scorers are notorious for poor attribution for the visiting teams in this regard.
Both teams complained vociferously about the condition of the ice surface at Mellon Arena after the game, and it was obvious watching the game that the puck was bouncing all over the place.
"The ice was really bad," Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik said, "and something we talked about going into the overtime was just put pucks on net, you never know."
"In overtime ice was just a mess, pucks just bouncing and stuff," Ovechkin said, describing one particular play in overtime where he was trying to get a shot off.
"We have three-on-two, [Hal] Gill goes down and I have probably 100 percent chance to score goals, but puck just stopped moving."