Penguins-Capitals: Pittsburgh Makes Statement with Brutal Beatdown of Washington

jonathan staub@JStaubSportTalkCorrespondent IMay 15, 2009

WASHINGTON - MAY 13:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shake hands after Pittsburgh's 6-2 victory in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinal  Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 13, 2009 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In some sports, eight seconds is a lifetime.

In relation to time and physics, eight seconds goes by in the bat of an eye.

For the Capitals…the eight seconds that went by from 12:36-to-12:44 happened in a flash, but the effects will last a lifetime.

The aforementioned eight seconds that eclipsed in game seven must have felt like an eternity for everyone in the Verizon Center not supporting the black and gold.

For a series that everything, it was missing the most obvious thing…and that was a blowout.

The Pittsburgh Penguins made a statement in game seven of the their second round matchup with the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

That statement was heard loud and clear throughout the NHL.

And that statement was that the Pittsburgh Penguins are the best young team in the Eastern Conference, and teams better get used to their success…because there is no foreseeable end in the near future.

Pittsburghhad been missing a strong performance from Marc-Andre Fleury in this series.

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After being the single most important factor for their success in round one, Fleury looked to be the single biggest handicap in round two.

His play was sporadic, and he was unable to have that signature moment that he had in the first round; for those keeping score at home, that lunging kick save in game two on Jeff Carter will be a lasting image in Fleury’s career.

Three minutes into game seven, Fleury would have that signature moment that he so direly needed.

Alexander Ovechkin, who has been such a polarizing force for the Capitals this series with eight goals and six assists, came bearing down on Fleury on a breakaway.

For the first time this series…Fleury would not break.

The Penguins goaltender stoned the two-time NHL goal-scoring champion, and defending league MVP, cold.

Not only did change the course of the period, game and series on that singular play, but he sent a message as well.

"That sends your team a message right away," Penguin captain Sidney Crosby said. "It allows you to calm down a little."

For two teams high-strung on emotion, both sides knew the significance of Fleury’s save.

Washingtoncoach Bruce Boudreau said, "It didn't seem like we had a lot of emotion, but if Alex would have put that one in on the breakaway, who knows? It might have been a different story."

The roof would have blown off the Verizon Center had Ovechkin buried what has become routine for the talented Russian.

But on this night…it was not to be.

Pittsburgh dominated the Capitals on both ends of the ice, and over the course of the next 28 minutes and 40 seconds, the Penguins would race out to a 5-0 lead.

Sidney Crosby got the scoring started at 12:36, when he used his skate to deflect a Sergei Gonchar shot to his forehand, and punch it past Simeon Varlamov; make no mistake about it, this play is a perfect example of why Sid the Kid is the best player in the world as there are only a handful of players that could even attempt such a play.

Remember that eternity I spoke of earlier?

Eight seconds later, Craig Adams took a pass from Ruslan Fedotenko and went five-hole on Varlamov for his first career playoff goal.

You will never see a player get mobbed more than Adams, a true locker room favorite.

"It's just so amazing, I still don't really know what happened," a glazed-eyed Tom Poti said in a somber Caps dressing room.

"I don't think we could have come out any flatter. They took it to us, they got a lucky bounce on the first goal, and it was kind of mayhem from there on in."

The eight second span that surpassed between goals was the shortest time between goals for a team in a game seven in NHL history; it was also the second fastest two goal spurt in a playoff game in Penguin history.

Pittsburgh took a decisive psychological advantage into the locker room, and despite the fact that the team that scored first in five of the six games in series had lost, the Penguins didn’t looked poised to give Washington an inch.

28 seconds into the second period it was Billy Guerin who put the Penguins up 3-0 with a wicked shot from the slot.

Only 1:44 later, at 2:12, Kris Letang chased Varlamov from the game with a blistering slap-shot from the left circle.

For Simeon Varlamov, this was a bittersweet end to a fantastic postseason. Varlamov stood on his head for two series, and was the biggest reason for Washington’s success up to this point.

This young man should keep his head held high, he made his coach look like a genius with his inspired play.

The Penguins, who were looking to become the first team since Detroit in 1996 to make the Conference Finals the year after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, were not done.

Jordan Staal scored the killing blow at 11:37 of the second to all but seal the victory for Pittsburgh.

Everyone in the building, watching at home, and even on the ice was surprised with just how anti-climatic things seemed.

“We were surprised at how easy things went,” regular season scoring leader Evgeni Malkin said.

Things were coming easily for Pittsburgh, but it should have hardly come as a surprise. Pittsburgh has been tormenting Washington for over a decade in the postseason, and with the way the Penguins were playing, this should have been expected.

Washington has now gone up on Pittsburgh 2-0 in a postseason series three teams in their history, and they have gone on to lose all three times; the Penguins have now beating the Capitals in seven of the eight times these two teams have met in the playoffs.

This is also the fourth time that the Capitals have blown a two-game series lead in the postseason against the Penguins.

Pittsburgh also holds the NHL’s all-time best record in game seven’s on the road. This victory improved them to 4-0; they also became the first team since the 1998 Edmonton Oilers to win a game seven on the road by four or more goals.

Alexander Ovechkin managed to steal his eighth goal of the series at 18:09when he capitalized on a Fleury gaff behind the net.

Ovechkin finished the series with 14 points, the first time anyone has reached such a total in a single series since 1995.

All of this is, of course, little consolation for Ovechkin, as he team dropped to 2-6 in game sevens, and 1-2 in game seven’s during the Ovechkin era.

Personal accolades meant nothing after the game, and the usually outspoken forward was quite humbled by what just transpired.

"It just hurts," Ovechkin said. "I don't want to talk about me, personally. It's all about team."

"I'm very disappointed. They played better," Ovechkin continued. "I didn't score on the break away, so if I score the first goal, maybe a different game. I didn't score it. They're experienced guys. They're a great team. They played great."

The Capitals scored 22 goals in this series, and Ovechkin had factored in on 14 of them after Wednesday nights blowout; if you are counting, that’s 64 percent.

While Ovechkin did all he could, he never really got any help from his teammates, and that lack of depth is what ultimately cost the Capitals.

One of the greatest series in NHL history has several things to boast about.

92 percent of the time from games one-through-six these two teams were tied or separated by one goal; neither team led by more than two goals at any point.

Five of the first six games were decided by one goal, and three games found their way into overtime.

Alex the Great finished with those 14 points mentioned above, and Sid the Kid finished the series with 13; Crosby also leads all NHL postseason scorers with 12 goals.

"I can't describe the ups and downs of the series," Crosby said.

There were so many that fans and analysts will be talking about this series for years to come, but the signature moment, the everlasting image if you will, came at 2:02 of the third period.

Alexander Ovechkin turned the puck over to Sidney Crosby in the Penguins zone, and the Penguins captain sprinted the length of the ice on a breakaway while his counterpart could only watch from his knees as he beat Jose Theodore to put the Penguins up 6-1.

Brooks Laich scored at 6:36 to make it 6-2, but that was a moot point.

The Penguins were just to good for Washington. They played to hard every minute of every game to be denied, and while Ovechkin and the Caps had a great season, this series will be defining moment of the Ovechkin era until he can defeat Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the postseason.

As for the handshake, the two had nothing but encouraging words for one another as they met at center ice.

"I just said, 'Great series.' There was a lot of eyes on the series," Crosby said. "It was a battle for both teams. Individually, we both wanted to make sure we did a great job."

Ovechkin was all business when he met Crosby.

"I just wished him good luck," Ovechkin said, "and told him to win the Stanley Cup."


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