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The Caps may be losing, but through two games under Dale Hunter, they are building confidence while taking on the identity of their new head coach.
The Washington Capitals dropped their third straight game on Tuesday, and the second of the Dale Hunter era, 2-1 to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center on Thursday night. Let's take a look at the highlights, courtesy of CSN Washington.
The Caitals played an extremely physical game, piling up the hits by the dozens. But one has to wonder if they spent too much time trying to send a message to the Penguins about their physicality and not enough time trying to put shots on goal. They only had 17 shots in the game, which simply isn't going to get it done.
Tomas Vokoun will get some of the blame for this game because he had a legitimate chance at stopping both of the goals, but two goals is not an insurmountable lead for a team with as much offensive talent as the Capitals. It was the lack of scoring opportunities, not the defense, that hurt the Capitals on Thursday.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won their first regular season game in regulation at the Verizon Center since March of 2008 on Thursday night. The Capitals fell to 0-2 under new coach Dale Hunter.
Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead on a soft Chris Kunitz goal let up by Tomas Vokoun, and a mix up between Marcus Johansson and John Erskine which put the puck right on Kunitz's stick. The Pens forward stole the puck off the board and the Caps defenseman's stick on the play. Erskine and Johnansson got tangled up, and Erskine went down, with the puck coming loose in the middle of the ice. Kunitz immediately controlled it and put a quick shot on Vokoun. The shot was a body blow that caught the Caps' netminder off guard, as it appeared Erskine and Johansson had control of the puck in the zone just a second earlier. The knuckle puck shot trickled off Vokoun and through the seven hole for the 2-1 lead. It was a sequence that had to make new coach Dale Hunter grimace.
Washington once again struggled generating offensive chances. The Pens doubled up the Caps in shots on goal, limiting Washington to just two opportunities in the third period. It was the lowest shot total of the season for Washington. Hunter will now have to wait until Saturday night, when Ottawa comes to town, to get his first win as Caps coach.
Chimera's goal at 1:20 brought the Caps back into the game. Off of a pass from Joel Ward, Chimera drove the net, went to his backhand and put a top-shelf shot right under the crossbar for his 10th goal of the season. Washington's leading goal scorer, Chimera tied his goal total from all of last season and is eight from setting a new career high.
The Caps mustered more offense in the second period, putting 11 shots on goal to the Penguins' 13. Washington had two power play chances, but against the Penguins' second-ranked penalty kill unit, they could not get any pucks past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Tomas Vokoun has kept the Caps in the game throughout the first two periods with 25 saves.
The Penguins got on the scoreboard first, but the Caps left their mark as they trail 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Craig Adams put Pittsburgh up 1-0 at 5:21 as the Penguins took advantage of bad positioning by Dmitry Orlov. Arron Asham was able to sneak a pass across the crease to a waiting Adams, who just pushed the puck past Tomas Vokoun for his second goal of the season.
On the ensuing faceoff, Asham and John Erskine squared off as the latter sought revenge on the former, who knocked out Jay Beagle in a fight when the two teams last met in October. Erskine and Asham both connected with several punches, but Erskine ultimately knocked Asham to the ice.
Speaking of knocking to the ice, Washington hit everything with a pulse. Despite being outshot 13-4, the Caps have a 19-7 advantage in hits. Alex Ovechkin leads the team with five.
Expect a larger and more energized home crowd than expected Thursday night at Verizon Center to watch the Washington Capitals face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams have been busy lately -- for the Penguins it was welcoming Sidney Crosby back to the lineup for the star had been out for nearly a full calendar year with concussion symptoms; for the Caps, Tuesday night was the head coaching debut for Dale Hunter, who replaced the fired Bruce Boudreau. Washington lost to St. Louis in Hunter's debut, 2-1, but the former Caps star and new coach was pleased by his team's effort.
"Definitely (confusion) happens with transition. They don't got it down pat yet but I think they got better as it went on. They competed real hard and that's what you need to win," Hunter said.
All eyes will be on Crorsby and Alex Ovechkin, two of the game's biggest stars when the puck drops at 7 pm tonight. Here's the other game and broadcast information to get you prepared for the matchup.
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Verizon Center
Seaon Series: Caps won first meeting of season and are 8-0-1 since the Pens eliminated them from playoffs in 2009.
BALLSTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals held their typical morning skate prior to Thursday's game with the Pittsburgh Penguins. There will not be much different Thursday when compared to Tuesday's lineup that faced the St. Louis Blues as Tomas Vokoun will start and Mathieu Perreault will be the odd man out on the forward side of things:
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Brouwer
Eakin - Johansson - Semin
Chimera - Laich - Ward
Hendricks - Halpern - Knuble
Defensively, all seven healthy defensemen came off the ice at around the same time and none stayed on for extra work, so who will join Perreault in the press box will not be decided until game time.
As for the Penguins, via Pens Inside Scoop, their forward lines should look something like this:
Kunitz - Crosby - Dupuis
Sullivan - Malkin - Neal
Cooke - Staal - Kennedy
Asham - Park - Adams
The rivalry between Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins needs no introduction. Yet, at Verizon Center Wednesday, two important figures will be reintroduced when Sidney Crosby and Dale Hunter reacclimate themselves with arguably the NHL's premiere rivalry.
Crosby returned to action November 21 after a nine-month long recovery from a concussion. He has two goals and nine assists in only five games, while the Penguins are 3-1-1 in those five games. Two collisions - one with former Cap David Steckel at the end of the second period of January's Winter Classic and another from the Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman in the subsequent game - knocked Crosby out for the rest of the regular season and postseason. Wednesday will be Crosby's first game at Verizon Center since December 2010.
Meanwhile, Hunter was a part of the rivalry himself as a player and he actually coached against Crosby in juniors while with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights. Even then, Hunter knew how special Crosby was.
"We had to put a checking line against him and pay special attention - he still scored points and goals -- we limited him, anyways," Hunter said after Wednesday's practice. "He was so strong on his skates at that age, too. He was 17 and to dominate junior like he did and play against, we had an older team, they were 19-year-old kids, and right away you knew you had a special player."
"He's the type of guy that you've got to give special attention to, just like [Alex Ovechkin] does too," he continued. "We've got to be aware of him at all times on the ice."
Speaking of Ovechkin, he addressed the return of his foil.
"It's gonna be good battle," he said. "He's come back, I think everybody's excited. He missed almost a year. It's kind of hard to come back, but he's a great player."
Hunter will start with a clean state against the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins (14-7-4). In Boudreau's final 13 regular season games against Pittsburgh, Washington went 11-0-2. The two teams have met once this season; Dennis Wideman's overtime goal gave Washington a 3-2 win over the Penguins October 13.
There will be plenty of intriguing plot lines Wednesday, including the fate of Arron Asham, who knocked out Jay Beagle during a fight the two had in the teams' last game. Beagle has yet to return from a concussion suffered in that fight.
Mike Green has been skating recently, but has no timetable for a return back into the Caps' lineup.