CAPS' ROOKIE GOALIE VARLAMOV ALLOWS FOUR GOALS ON 14 SHOTS
When it came down to it, the Washington Capitals just didn't have it in them.
The Pittsburgh Penguins scored early, often, and resoundingly, defeating the Caps 6-2 before yet another sold-out, red-clad crowd at Verizon Center.
Washington came out pretty quickly in Game Seven, and actually—albeit briefly—had a lead in shots on goal at 5-4. But after Marc-Andre Fleury gloved Alex Ovechkin's breakaway shot, both teams—and everyone in the arena—could feel a momentum shift.
Ovechkin was circumspect after the game, "First 10 minutes were pretty good, getting pucks in deep. I didn't score on the breakaway, so if I score first goal, maybe a different game."
Just minutes later, Shaone Morrisonn was called for slashing, putting Pittsburgh on the power play for the first of three tries on the evening. Just a little over one minute in on the man-advantage, Sidney Crosby banged home his 11th goal of the playoffs, assisted by Sergei Gonchar, the defenseman that Ovechkin knocked out of Game Four with a violent collision.
The P.A. announcer didn't even have time to announce the goal when unheralded right winger Craig Adams—he of two goals in 45 games this season—snapped a wrist shot past Semyon Varlamov just eight seconds later. At that point, it was all over but the crying.
Defenseman Brian Pothier was succinct when asked how the team could have re-grouped after the two quick strikes. "Well, not do what we were doing, cause it was terrible what we were doing out there."
The Penguins received another power play a few minutes later as Sergei Fedorov was whistled for interference. They would not score, but it helped wear the Caps down, and certainly contributed to the 16-5 shot discrepancy.
If Washington had any hopes of climbing back into this one, they were dashed quickly at the start of the second period, as trade deadline pick-up Bill Guerin beat Varlamov with a slap shot just 28 seconds into the frame. Any energy in the building quickly dissipated.
Coach Bruce Boudreau defended his netminder, who carried his team into the second round, but had concerns with his confidence, especially after the third goal.
"After the third goal, I was thinking about pulling him cause he looked really dejected. Maybe I should have called a time out at that point. But after the fourth goal I think the wind completely came out of his sails emotionally."
"I wish maybe I [had pulled him] one goal sooner."
The fourth goal came from one of Pittsburgh's lesser known, but most important players this series, Kris Letang. Letang had the game-winner in Game Four, and tonight's was the nail in the Caps' coffin.
His slap shot came at 2:12 of the second, and that's when Boudreau lifted Varlamov in favor of Jose Theodore, the man he replaced in Game Two of the first round series against the New York Rangers.
The rest of the game was fairly inconsequential. The teams traded two goals apiece down the stretch, including Ovechkin's 11th of the playoffs, and Crosby's capper, another power play goal, at 2:02 of the third period.
Pittsburgh received three power plays, the Caps zero.
Brooks Laich offered his opinion of Pittsburgh's domination. "If you look at the game tonight, they were more composed with the puck [and] the reason they won the game is that they outworked us."
"It's not easy to stand here and say that we were outworked in our building in a Game Seven, but I'm sure we're going to have to think about that for a long time."
NOTES: After the game, Boudreau admitted several of his players were playing with injuries that would have kept them out of the regular season, but didn't want to use that as an excuse. He told reporters he would detail the injuries in Friday's breakdown day.
The Capitals were scored with 19 giveaways, compared to Pittsburgh's four. Mike Green had four turnovers by himself. Green finished at minus-three for the night, and was effectively benched in the third period.