|The Resemblance is...Remarkable|
Perhaps it's only fitting that on "Charity Bag" night, the Penguins met up with one of the NHL's perennial charity cases, the Washington Capitals.
The two teams have met twice this season, both ending with the Capitals shutting the Penguins out by 3-0 and 4-0 counts.
The Penguins went into the contest looking to break Braden Holtby's shutout streak while helping to amend their terrible record against fellow Metropolitan Division opponents.
First Period Action:
The Penguins sent an early message via the Patric Hornqvist Express (trademark pending) when Hornqvist's stick inadvertently got caught in the mask of Holtby during a goalmouth scrum.
The Penguins, wearing the 1990 third jersey digs that fans love, clearly entered the contest with the goal of playing the Capitals and Barry Trotz's team a lot tighter, and with an emphasis on physical play.
Naturally, Rob "the Offensive Juggernaut" Scuderi didn't get the memo and activated during an early rush, and nearly gave Pittsburgh an early lead, but Holtby was up to the task.
Alexander Ovechkin, sporting a beard in a blatant attempt to stop looking like the giant from "Happy Gilmore," worked with Niklas Backstrom to set up linemate Andre Burakovsky with a neat passing play, but Fleury's vintage yellow pads stopped the shot.
Crosby and Perron's line immediately countered with a scoring chance, but Holtby kept the scoreless streak intact with a sound butterfly stop.
Given that Barry Trotz teams are notorious for employing traps to slow the tempo of the game down, it's not surprising that the majority of the first period was played in a bakery, with both teams trying to force (apple and cherry) turnovers in the neutral scone.
Glass Beau (Bennett) picked up matching unsportsmanlike penalties with Capital behemoth Tom Wilson, but it was after Blake Comeau tripped up Niklas Backstrom that Washington went on its vaunted powerplay.
The Washington Capitals' powerplay is a lot like the asteroid in "Armageddon:" everyone knows that the big scary thing (one-timer from Ovechkin) is coming, but there's not much anyone can do.
Washington would eventually "Capitalize," with Ovechkin making the game 1-0 following a breakaway during the powerplay....
...wait, the Penguins gave up a BREAKAWAY while SHORTHANDED? Egads.
Regardless, the first period ended with the Penguins trailing both in shots on goal and in goals, 7-11 and 0-1, respectively.
Second Period Action:
Pittsburgh came out determined in the second period, and after a lead pass from Steve Downie, Kris Letang went wide before driving the net on Holtby. Craig Adams collapsed in the paint, and Downie followed up and deposited the rebound to tie the game at 1-1 and end Holtby's shutout streak.
On the next shift, Sidney Crosby skated around Gretzky's Office, and former Penguin Mats Niskanen grabbed the Penguin captain to put Pittsburgh on the (gulp) power-play.
Perhaps it's fitting that the Penguins' power-play is sponsored by Powerball: you may buy the ticket, but you know that you're not going to cash in. Such was the case with this man-advantage, as Pittsburgh practiced giving the puck away for the entirety of the two minutes.
Perron would get the best chance on the PP via Perron, with the former Oiler trying to bang a loose puck home from in tight on Holtby.
Speaking of the Washington netminder, he started to take exception to the physical way that Perron, Adams and other Penguins were playing him.
Following one little Holtby outburst (to be fair, he has nothing on Alexander Semin's bongos solo on Marc Staal), the Pens created an odd-man situation and Simon Despres launched a rocket that Holtby had to turn aside, and a Letang scoring attempt lay uncovered in the crease before being cleared to safety by a Caps defenseman.
Blake Comeau had a tremendous scoring chance from within the right circle after he overstayed on a shift, but his rising wrister was deflected to the corner by the Washington goalie.
During the ensuing possession, Washington went high-to-low-to-high to feed Troy Brouwer high in the slot. Brouwer's stick exploded like a West Virginia train, and Fleury easily handled the resulting dribbler.
Rob Bortuzzo and Michael Latta then dabbled in the sweet science on the Penguins blue line, with Bortuzzo landing a series of long-armed overhand shots to Latta's noggin.
The Penguins would get another power play late in the stanza when the aforementioned Brouwer was sent off for interefering with Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Pens' umbrella attack generated a few shots from the perimeter, but the Capitals' plan to pressure the man with puck carrier worked, and the Penguins' power-play pulled a Steve Carrell in "The 40 year Old Virgin" and failed to score.
Third Period Action:
Alexander Ovechkin, deciding that the five years since downing a Penguin with a legendarily dirty play was long enough, downed Kris Letang with a cowardly two-handed slash that sent the Norris Trophy candidate into the boards.
With fan-friendly chants of "OV-IE SUCKS" drifting down from the rafters, the third period had begun in earnest. Following a scrum in the Capitals' zone and an extra penalty doled out to Steve Downie, the Capitals (and Ovechkin) were once again on the power-play.
Sidney Crosby actually logged some ice time during the ensuing penalty kill, and following Pittsburgh's emotional kill, Letang returned to the bench to the cheers of the Consol Energy Center crowd.
After some sustained Penguin pressure, Steve Downie dropped Jack Hillen with a right cross...well, okay, it's more accurate to say that Downie hit Jack Hillen with a right cross, and then Jack Hillen dropped Jack Hillen with an embarrassing flop to the ice that happened WELL after contact.
The extra penalty put Ovechkin and Co. right back onto the power-play with the chance to retake the lead. Shortly after an xcellent burst of work by Nick Spaling, Niklas Backstrom rung a wrister off of the post behind Fleury.
Sidney Crosby once again took the ice during the PK, and once again, the Pens managed to kill the Capitals' power-play.
The Penguins somehow avoided disaster when Marc-Andre Fleury stoned Alexander Ovechkin twice following a madcap rush around the net.
Chris Kunitz would be sent to the penalty box after a somewhat questionable hit on Joel Ward, and seconds later, Kris Letang joined him following a slash.
The Penguins thus faced nearly two minutes of a Caps' 5-3. Fleury made an early stop on Ovechkin, but seconds later failed to prevent a cross-crease pass to Joel Ward, and Ward scored on the doorstep.
The Penguins would kill off the second penalty and Malkin and Letang nearly got the equalizer, but the Pens remained trailing until Brooks Laich gifted the Penguins with a careless goaltender interference penalty that put Pittsburgh on the power-play for the final portion of regulation.
With Fleury on the bench and the extra-attacker on the ice, Pittsburgh refused to shoot the puck, preferring instead to pass it along the perimeter. Crosby in particular passed on two chances to one-time the puck in lieu of attempting one-time passes to the middle of the ice.
The horrific indecision of Crosby proved to be the perfect microcosm of the Penguins' struggle with the man advantage, and Washington earned its third consecutive win over Pittsburgh by the final score of 3-1 (blah blah empty net goal blah blah).