Capitals-Penguins: Second Round, Game Three Preview

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst IMay 6, 2009

WASHINGTON - MAY 04:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals is mobbed by his teammates as he celebrated his first playoff hat trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 4, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington,  DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

They say that a playoff series doesn't really start until a home team loses. The Washington Capitals travel to Pittsburgh for tonight's Game Three ready to test that old adage against the Penguins in Mellon Arena.


It seems that the drama, which was all that might have been missing from the first two games of this series, has returned.

After Game Two, when asked why he conferred with a referee during the clean-up of hats after Alex Ovechkin's third goal, Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby replied,

"People kept throwing hats. I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop. I mean, the first wave came and then I think they were all pretty much picked up, and then more started coming. So for us, we just wanted to make sure we kept kind of moving and kept the game going, wanted to try to get back in it. So wasn't complaining about anything."

Not complaining, indeed.

Not to be outdone in the sour grapes department, Penguins winger Matt Cooke had this to say about the contact during Ovechkin's power play goal:

"We've talked to the referees, and I know we showed them tape," Cooke said. "It's a blatant play. I'm nowhere near the puck. He [Semin] is not allowed to touch me. It's a penalty. ... Call the game accordingly. The rules are the rules. It's not a guessing game."

Then, from this morning's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said he wouldn't "be surprised," if Ovechkin used an illegally curved blade on his stick.

"I haven't taken a look at it," Fleury said. "The puck sometimes sticks to it pretty good, even if it's bouncing."

Coach Bruce Boudreau's response to the Cooke quote, which probably covers all three instances, was simple.

"It's just jockeying and whining," Boudreau said. "It's enough of it."


Penguins winger Chris Kunitz' cross-check to the head and neck of Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov merited only a fine from the league, on a play that wasn't called a penalty during the game, yet was supposed to be a point of emphasis for the NHL referees this season: deliberate blows to the head.

Varlamov looked like he was temporarily dazed in the replay, but was uninjured from the blow. For his part, Kunitz (sort of) apologized through the media this morning.

"It looks bad on tape," the Penguin said of his hit on Varlamov. "It definitely does. It's not something I'm proud of. You don't want to do that. You don't ever want to injure someone. But it's something where I was going to the net, trying to make space. Unfortunately I hit him. It's something the league is going against right now -- hits to the head. I was fortunate [to not be suspended]."

The Caps were not, and are not, happy about Kunitz' hard play on their goaltender.

"It happened so quick you sometimes don't realize it," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But if you look at the clip and slow it down, I mean, he's aiming right for the throat."

Ovechkin summed it up best.

"It's a cheap shot and Brash got six games but why not Kunitz? It's all about being fair. It's a serious problem I think. Can you imagine if he gave [Varlamov] an injury, what are we going to do?"

"If it's not going to be called it's going to be a terrible decision and I'm going to be [mad] about it.


Washington played Monday night without defenseman John Erskine, who took a shot off the leg in Game One. He participated in morning skate today, but reportedly was walking with a heavy limp once off the ice. If Erskine cannot go tonight, Tyler Sloan, who received high marks for his work in Game Two, will probably get the call.

Eric Fehr did not practice and was replaced by Michael Nylander on the fourth line. Fehr was hit hard by Ruslan Fedotenko in Game Two and missed most of the rest of the game with an undisclosed injury.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang left late in Game Two holding his left shoulder. Coach Dan Bylsma said that Letang's injury was a "strength issue", and that he looked stronger in the morning skate. But he called his veteran defenseman a game-time decision.

If Letang can't go, Phillippe Boucher would take his place.


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