Groundhog Day all over again. The Pens jump out to a 3-1 series lead all while getting outshot, out-Corsi’d, out-Greenberg’d, etc. by the Caps. Then, the Caps play like a desperate hockey team that’s on the verge of another early postseason exit and win Game 5 in front of an emotional home crowd in D.C.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an asshole. I was so confident the Pens were going to thump the Caps last night that I blogged on Friday about how great it was going to be to witness Sidney Crosby shake Matt Niskanen’s hand after the game last night. And I was wrong. Very wrong. I assumed the emotional high of Sid’s return would be too much for the Capitals to contain. But it obviously wasn’t. There’s one thing I forgot while the serotonin was running rampant in my brain after finding out Sidney Crosby would be returning this postseason – when a team is on the verge of elimination, they’re going to play absurdly desperate. And the Caps did exactly that. Three goals in the 3rd by their big boys (Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and Ovechkin) combined with stellar goaltending by Braden Holtby, and now we’re heading back to Pittsburgh for a game #6.
There’s no doubt the Pens didn’t look their sharpest in this one. Fleury didn’t exactly play like Conn Smythe-Fleury, although he really didn’t suck, either. Yeah, he got torched by the Burakovsky goal in the 1st, but both Kuznetsov’s and Ovechkin’s goals came as a result of lucky bounces from blocked shots. Not a whole lot he can do there so no need to lose sleep over his performance. At this point, there’s no real reason to even consider Matt Murray as an option in goal. The man has been playing out of his mind this postseason and deserves to be the starter right now (even if a healthy Matt Murray is the long-term solution).
Tomorrow night’s another big opportunity for the Pens to finish this thing up on home ice. Let’s all hope we don’t have to endure another Game 6 butt-clenching overtime like last year because a potential Game 7 at the Verizon Center doesn’t seem like fun.
P.S. – Does Washington have the dumbest/worst fans in all of sports or am I being completely biased here based off of a couple tweets here?