Star Struck – Monday’s Game 2 in the Washington-Pittsburgh Eastern Conference Semifinal Series was one for the ages. The game’s top two offensive stars put on a memorable display, as Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby each recorded his first playoff hat trick in the same game.
The difference in Washington’s 4-3 win over Pittsburgh was a David Steckel goal late in the second period and the goaltending heroics of 21-year-old Caps rookie Simeon Varlamov.
Crosby got the Pens staked to a 1-0 lead when he jammed a rebound past Varlamov at 6:38 of the first. Ovechkin drew the Caps even when he converted a brilliant play by Sergei Fedorov and a subsequent pass from Viktor Kozlov. It was one of two goals on the the night that featured all three Russians; Ovechkin from Kozlov and Fedorov.
Crosby restored the Pittsburgh lead midway through the second before Steckel scored his second in as many games at 15:49 of the middle frame, sending the game into the third tied 2-2 for the second time in as many games in this series.
Pittsburgh failed to cash in on a power play chance midway through the frame, and then the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin took an offensive zone tripping call at the exact second that the Pittsburgh man-advantage expired.
Malkin’s backside barely graced the penalty box bench before Ovechkin turned on the red light for the second time in the game. Washington needed just four seconds of power play time for Nicklas Backstrom to win the offensive zone face-off to Mike Green, and for Green to slide the puck to Ovechkin. The Caps’ left wing unleashed his lethal one-timer from high in the slot, and it beat Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury cleanly.
Just 2:29 later, Ovechkin sent a cascade of hats on the ice when he again blazed one past Fleury. It was Washington’s first playoff hat trick since Al Iafrate scored three times in a game against the New York Islanders on April 26, 1993.
New York’s Ray Ferraro also scored four goals in that game, a 6-4 Washington win at USAir Arena. Until tonight, that was one of only three times in NHL playoff history that two players for different teams had both recorded hat tricks in the same game.
Edmonton's Mark Messier and Calgary's Paul Reinhart both had three goals in a 6-3 Edmonton win over the Flames on April 14, 1983. And the Avs' Joe Sakic and the Canucks' Trevor Linden both had three-goal games in Colorado's 5-4 win over Vancouver on April 25, 1996.
On at least two different prior occasions, multiple players from the same team recorded playoff hat tricks. One of those games also involved the Capitals.
On April 22, 1988, New Jersey’s Mark Johnson scored four goals and the Devils’ Patrik Sundstrom scored three times in a 10-4 New Jersey win over Washington. Pete Peeters and Clint Malarchuk were in goal for Washington that night.
On April 10, 1990 the Los Angeles Kings got hat tricks from Tony Granato, Tomas Sandstrom and Dave Taylor in a 12-4 win over Calgary. Mike Vernon and Rick Wamsley were in the nets for the Flames that night.
Five Alive – Monday’s win extended Washington’s playoff winning streak to five, the longest in team history. The Caps had won four straight games in the postseason on four previous occasions, most recently in 1991.
Got His Number – Exactly three years ago tonight, the Hershey Bears took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven East Division final series over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with a 5-4 road win over the Baby Pens.
Fleury was in goal for the Baby Pens that night, and he was victimized by all five Hershey goals. The fourth of those tallies came from Steckel.
Fleury was in goal again for Game 3 of that series, a 4-1 Hershey win. Steckel beat Fleury again in that contest.
In Game 1 of the current series between the Caps and the Penguins, Steckel scored Washington’s first goal of the game against Fleury. And of course, in Game 2, he tallied again.
So, four playoff games for Steckel against Fleury. Four playoff goals against Fleury.
Steckel also won 10 of 13 face-offs (77%) in Monday's win.
15 With a Bullet – Fedorov’s two assist night gives him six points (one goal, five assists) in this year’s playoffs and 174 points (52 goals, 122 assists) during his NHL playoff career. He now moves ahead of former Penguin Mario Lemieux for 15th place on the league’s all-time playoff scoring list.
Fedorov ranks seventh all-time on playoff assists and is tops among all active players in that category.
Sacrifice – Washington blocked a total of 23 shots in Monday’s Game 2, with 19 of them being snuffed out by the Capitals’ defense corps. Tom Poti, Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Green led the way with four blocked shots each.
Shooting Gallery – Washington limited the New York Rangers to an average of just 23.7 shots on goal per game in the seven-game first round set between the two teams. Pittsburgh has now fired 36 shots on goal in each of the first two games of the second-round playoff series between the Caps and the Pens.
A Man Short – Caps right wing Eric Fehr left the game during his third shift of the night after absorbing a hit in the corner of the offensive zone. Fehr skated 2:09 before leaving for the night.
Pittsburgh lost defenseman Kris Letang late in the game. Letang was checked into the boards by Washington defenseman Mike Green. The Pittsburgh blueliner left the contest and did not return.
Streak Stuff –Alexander Semin was held off the scoresheet on Monday, ending his scoring streak at six games. Backstrom’s assist pushed his streak to five straight games with a point (six assists).
On The Board – Recalled from AHL Hershey the night before, Caps defenseman Tyler Sloan had a strong game filling in for the injured John Erskine. Sloan skated 16:23 on the night, including 1:49 in shorthanded ice time. Most (1:30) of Sloan’s shorthanded ice time came in the third period. He chipped in with three blocked shots and a hit, and also picked up his first career playoff assist in the NHL with a helper on Steckel’s goal.
Slump Buster – The Penguins entered the game on an 0-for-17 power play skid, but got a slump-busting extra-man tally on a first-period power play. Pittsburgh also scored on its final power play chance of the night when Crosby completed his hat trick at 19:29 of the third period.
The Pens were 2-for-5 with the extra man on the night.
First Strike – For the second straight game, Pittsburgh scored the game’s first goal and failed to win. For the second straight game, Crosby scored the game’s first goal in the first period. The Pens are now 2-2 in games when they score the game’s first goal in the 2009 playoffs.
Even is Good – With Monday’s win over the Penguins, the Capitals are now 3-0 during this playoff season in games that are tied after two periods.
Tighten Up – Monday’s win was Washington’s third straight in one-goal games, a nice turnaround from the team’s dubious history in one-goal games heading into the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Before last Tuesday’s 2-1 Game 7 win over the New York Rangers, the Capitals had been 5-17 in their previous 22 one-goal games in the postseason. That streak dated back to Joé Juneau’s overtime game-winner at Buffalo on June 4, 1998, the goal that sent Washington to the lone Stanley Cup final appearance in franchise history.