Earlier this season, Washington winger
If Semin didn't have his answer earlier in the series, he sure does now.
Crosby scored twice to raise his NHL-leading playoff goal total to 12, helping lead his Penguins to a 6-2 (
Crosby's three-point night was part of a nearly flawless effort by a Pittsburgh team that took no penalties and turned over the puck just four times. But their execution, combined with Washington's defensive indifference, didn't make for much of a contest.
A blowout from very early in the second, this was the one element of this otherwise thrilling series that didn't deliver on the hype. It was a flaccid dessert after a spectacular six-course meal, maybe the worst delivery-to-anticipation ratio since
But while it lacked in entertainment value, it was more than successful as a primer on the value of defensive zone dedication, and the dangers facing whichever team Pittsburgh meets in the Eastern Conference final.
For the Caps, who blew a 2-0 series lead, the devil wasn't in the details, but in the commitment. You want a lesson in commitment? Watch
That really said it all about his team's focus and the advantage it gave them over an opponent either unwilling or unable to match it. Because for all the shock and awe that their offense can muster, Washington's forwards continued to play as though skill alone would be enough to carry the day. While Pittsburgh's forwards fully engaged in the battle, the Capitals kept looking for the easy way out . . . and they'll spend tomorrow cleaning out their lockers as a result.
There will be plenty of talk in the days ahead about injuries limiting some players, but the bottom line is that the Caps simply couldn't meet Pittsburgh's desire to compete. They had happy hands with the puck and were dysfunctional without it. That's why the regretfully yappy Semin remained goal-less for the series. Why
You watched their dubious effort and it's little wonder Varlamov melted down.
It's impossible to sugar coat his performance. He was bad. Varlamov may have been the main reason that Washington survived this long into the playoffs, but on a night when he needed to stand tall, his quick-drop style only made him smaller.
Varlamov was unlucky on Crosby's opening goal, a short-side tap-in on the power play at 12:36 of the first. But he was just plain out of position when fourth liner
The game went off the rails early in the second when he was beaten on consecutive tests of his glove hand. Crosby set up
That's exactly what
Buoyed by those stops the Pens soon established their game, pressuring the biscuit in all three zones. Wasn't long before the Capitals started throwing away the puck . . . and the series.
Ovechkin, who'd matched Crosby through the first six games, finally got his moment late in the second, swiping the puck from Fleury behind the net before wheeling around and firing it into the empty cage.
But he returned the favor early in the third. Dangling carelessly at the Penguins blue line, Ovechkin had his pocket picked by Crosby who raced in alone before beating Theodore for Pittsburgh's final tally in the series.
It made for a fitting conclusion, a vivid reminder of Washington's recklessness and Pittsburgh's relentless puck pressure.
And it also served to answer Semin's question. You know, in case he was still wondering.