|ReCap: Capitals @ Penguins by: Mike Smuland March 25, 2002|
|The .500 curse strikes again. Washington was unable to even-up the win-loss column once again, falling to Pittsburgh in embarrassing fashion 6-2.
Washington's flaccid power play and the plucky clutch-and-grab play of the patchwork Penguins was all it took to bury Washington's hopes of moving into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ken Klee scored at 1:28 of the second period with a backhand shot (and first shot of the period) that bounced off his defender's leg and past a stunned Johan Hedberg; the goal was Washington's first, closing the gap to 2-1, but the Capitals never got close again.
Pittsburgh also scored on their first shot of the second at 3:11 on a Michal Rozsival slapshot from the point that Olaf Kolzig appeared not to see. Pittsburgh added two more goals in the period and exchanged goals in the third to seal the win.
The game got off to a poor start for Washington despite receiving the first two power plays of the game including 1:10 of 5-on-3 time. The Caps were positively woeful with the man advantage, getting only one shot on those first two chances and just one more shot on their next three power play opportunities.
Pittsburgh opened the scoring at 5:18 of the first frame, converting their first power play opportunity. Jan Hrdina chipped a loose puck over a fallen Ken Klee and Olie Kolzig to give the Pens an early lead.
With just over a minute remaining in the period, Pittsburgh won a face-off in Washington's zone, sending it back to the point for a slapshot. Olie Kolzig made the initial save, but kicked it out directly to Aleksey Morozov in the slot. Morozov settled the puck off of his leg as Kolzig desperately flopped onto the ice; Morozov took advantage, lifting the puck high over Kolzig for a 2-0 lead.
Washington was out-shot, out-hit and out-hustled the entire night. Their frustration began to show with the last half of the game featuring numerous fights and hits after the play.
Pittsburgh became undisciplined with the game well in hand. Washington benefited with an extended power play the last seven minutes of regulation; Peter Bondra scored with a sharp short-side blast, but Toby Peterson scored seven-hole just two minutes later on a short-handed breakaway to put the Pens back up four goals.
+ The Capitals finally got some calls to go their way and had ample power play opportunities.
- Washington needs to figure out a new scheme for the power play unit with
Gonchar out of the line-up. Barring that, they need to shoot the puck and create traffic in front.
- Jaromir Jagr's trip to Pittsburgh was a disappointment. He had an assist, but turned the puck over leading to the shorthanded goal and took a frustration penalty early in the game.
Craig Billington replaced Kolzig at the start of the third and looked solid, controlling his rebounds and not falling to the ice like Kolzig...Benoit Hogue was a healthy scratch as Matt Pettinger was re-installed in the line-up for coach Ron Wilson tonight...J.F. Fortin took a nasty spill in the first period, but seemed to full recover and was quickly back on the ice...Sergei Gonchar sat out his second consecutive game with concussion after-effects.