When it comes to defense and goaltending these days, Bruce Boudreau seems to be catching all the breaks. Semyon Varalmov was scheduled to start but was reportedly ill, and Michael Nuevirth started in his place.
Different goalie same result, another solid performance in net from one of the Capitals net minders. Three goalies have allowed just 39 goals in their last 21 games with 1.79 goals against and a .940 save percentage for Boudreau. Neuvirth returning from injury played in his first game since Jan-21.
This was the Michael Neuvirth Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Danny Bylsma called "shaky" during the HBO show 24/7 Penguins/Capitals. Neuvirth the 22-year-old rookie goaltender, made 22 saves as the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0.
Without Sidney Crosby, who missed his 13th game and Evgeni Malkin, who if the Pens will not say it I will, is out for the year with a knee injury, the Pens could muster no offense.
The shutout was Neuvirth's second of the season in his young career. The Capitals also snapped another team's winning streak that sits ahead of them in the standings. On Friday, the Caps snapped the Tampa Bay Lightning six-game winning streak and today, stopped the penguins at five.
Give credit to Washington as they once again played a smart defensive game, void of stupid penalties. Defensive captain Mike Green was injured after being hit by a puck in the face at the end of the first period and did not return.
The Caps played solidly with five defenseman in the last periods and won their eighth straight Super Sunday matinee in a row and are now 14-3-1 on Super Sunday.
This game picked up right where the Winter Classic left off, with controversy. The Penguins feeling retribution was needed for the hit that Dave Steckel put on Sidney Crosby, possibly triggering the concussion, sent out tough man Tim Wallace.
Wallace was called up last evening and head coach Bruce Boudreau felt for challenging Steckel. Boudreau said, "I've coached him for eight years, and he's never done it once (the type of hit on Crosby) so if they want to use it as a motivating tool, go ahead. But they send out a guy they called up (to fight). And Mike Rupp, who's a fighter, knowing Dave never fought, challenging him. To me, it was (rubbish)."
The Caps scored one goal in each period starting with Brooks Laich's first period tally. Laich had scored just three goals in his last 20 games and now has goals in back-to-back games.
The Capitals were able to control a lot of the play in the Pens zone below the circles and behind the net in this game. Mathieu Perreault continued his hard work as he controlled the puck behind the net, Max Talbot fore-checked the puck away, but Perreault regained control, pushing the puck to John Erskine at the point.
Erskine's shot was not controlled by Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and Laich buried the rebound.
The Caps second goal was reminiscent of Laich's backhand goal on Friday night in Tampa. Marcus Johansson on what amounted to an end-to-end one on two up ice rush, beat two Penguins defenders and backhanded a beautiful shot with just the right touch over Fleury's right shoulder. The puck dropped nicely into the net, giving the caps a two-goal lead.
The Caps final goal was an empty netter by Mike Knubble. Knubble sporting a band-aid covering a gash from a blatant high stick delivered by a Penguin defender in the neutral zone. A Penguins defender clipped Knubble under the eye. There was no penalty called on the play.
The Penguins played a very physical and at times undisciplined hockey game. Each team was oh-for on the power play in today’s game. The Pens penalty kill ranks No. 1 and the caps No. 2, so headed into today’s contest, extra man helpers would be at a premium.
Especially with Washington and their struggling power play unit, the caps are now 11 for their last 99 with the extra man.
The game started to get very choppy, and if there were more time, most assuredly would have turned ugly.
In hockey, like it or not, when a team feels your team had a hand in injuring their star, at some point, someone is going to take a run at yours. Today was no different. Say what you want Pens fans, but the knee-on-knee shot Matt Cooke put on Alex Ovechkin, was dirty and intentional.
Bruce Boudreau was none to happy with Cooke, who is sure to be marked when these teams play again later this month. "It's Matt Cooke. Need we say more?" Boudreau said. "It's not like it's his first rodeo. He's done it to everybody. And then he goes to the ref and says 'What did I do?' He knows what he did. There's no doubt in my mind. He's good at it."
Pens fans be aware, this is the double standard that your team employs and then the rest of us have to listen to you complain about it when the tables are turned. The double standard you all whine about and not Sidney Crosby is what drives the rest of the hockey world nuts.
I mentioned that Steckel would have to be paid back in an article following the Winter Classic, and many hockey snobs (many from Pittsburgh) commented that it is no longer a part of the sport. Many of you even said the hit was unintentional. I am a Caps fan; Steckel's hit was on purpose, maybe not to the head but he meant to hit him.
Stop kidding yourself hockey fans pay back and retribution is still very much a part of this game as well as it should be. For as long as hockey has been around, men with sticks at high speeds on ice skates aren't always going to play nicely.
Matt Cooke gets what he deserves when it happens and make no mistake, retribution will happen. Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera or a call-up from the Hershey Bears will look to make him pay later this month. Cooke broke a cardinal rule when going after a superstar, stay away from the knees.
The capitals improved to 9-0-2 against the Pens in their last 11 games, and Washington has now earned points in 18-of-21 games. Washington continues to remain unbeaten this season when leading after two periods. They are 20-0-2 with the lead headed into the third.