It's no surprise that Washington superstar
At least, not right away.
Struggling against ferocious checking and trying to find a way to impact the game, Ovechkin lined up
The extent of the damage remains to be determined, so it's premature to panic. After all, miraculous comebacks at this time of year are about as common as remixes of
But the chance that Gonchar might miss further action casts a pall over a 5-3 Pittsburgh win
Playing without him for any length of time puts the Penguins at a serious disadvantage. He eats the majority of blueline minutes, sets the physical tone on the back end, and is a constant threat in the offensive zone. His first period goal, a 45-foot slapper that he blew through the pads of a shaky
But on this night at least, his teammates rallied to carry the load. Led by
As a group, the five remaining Penguin defenders were physical and sacrificial, blocking 12 shots and using their sticks and bodies to keep the passing lanes densely clogged. Few of Washington's 22 shots were particularly challenging. Good thing, too, because
But as sketchy as he was, Fleury looked like
After nearly stealing Game 3, the rookie looked the part of the kid trying on his big brother's clothes. After underplaying Gonchar's very stoppable shot, he simply waved at the
As bad as he was, this can probably be written off as the occasional tough night that every goalie has. What's more troubling for the Caps were the repeated defensive breakdowns that led to too many odd man rushes and too many second and third chances for Pittsburgh's forwards in-tight. The biggest offender? Again, it was
Watching his freelancing misadventures, it's likely that anyone who had him penciled in for a spot on Team Canada was left franticly searching for an eraser.
After dropping a pair in Pittsburgh, the Capitals don't have much time to get their game back in order. Before they return to the Verizon Center for Saturday's pivotal contest, expect Boudreau to address their irresponsibility with the puck and the lack of discipline behind the play that led to several inexcusable calls. They'll also get a boost from returning home and the likelihood that Ovechkin and Varlamov will rediscover their mojo.
And if Gonchar can't go? That might be the biggest momentum shifter of all.