Matt Cooke's 4 minutes were killed. CONSOL Energy Center was on fire. And then there was Crosby was leading a 2-on-2 rush with a fresh Cooke. The crowd was still standing from cheering the PK effort, and they knew something was coming. Sid dished the puck to Cooke and drove to the net. Matt Cooke was passing to some mystery entity until the ROOT camera finally panned out, and it was Matt Niskanen coralling the puck inside the blue line and crusing down the slot.
And Niskanen nailed it. Just fucking nailed it.
Lange's call of the Niskanen goal:
The Pens refuse to lose at this point. They've given up six goals in six games. Six. The goaltending was outstanding, and the defense was stout once again.
But it is more than that. It's more than a clutch third-period goal or that it came against the Caps. The Pens got a game-tying goal from Paul Martin and of course the game-winner from Niskanen. When is the last time something like that happened with the Pens' D-men?
The Pens probably played their overall weakest game during this streak and still found a way to win. The win is also important because it pushes the Caps further off the playoff cliff. The Caps needed points; didn't get any.
On the Isle Friday, and the Isles usually ruin everything, so hold on to your butts. Pens only have two more back-to-backs left, and if they're dedicated to giving MAF some relief down the stretch, there's a good chance Vokoun is net Friday. Geno may be back, as well.
The first was maybe the most ordinary period of the streak thus far. The Caps had the early jump. Marc-Andre Fleury made two or three major saves. It is funny watching him play goal in comparison to Vokoun. It goes without saying, but his lateral movement was stoning the Caps. He had to make huge stops on Chimera and Perreault.
Some chode was trying to get on the broadcast:
You should be able to dump boiling-hot nacho cheese on people that do these types of things.
Fleury was extremely sharp. Kept the Pens in the game, really.
Sidney Crosby took some major punishment in the first period, and all game for that matter. He drew one penalty but almost got wrecked a few other times. The Caps targeted him early and often.
With about a minute left in the first, Mike Ribeiro had a chance to deliver a kill shot on Crosby:
The NHL's recent crackdown on blindside hits and headshots (mostly brought about because of Crosby) helped the Pens avert a complete disaster. Next time you want to talk shit on Mike Ribeiro, remember this play. Speaking of Ribeiro, we'll be discussing him later in the third period.
The Caps started the period with a power play but didn't convert.
The Penguins' sole objective for the first seven minutes of the second period was to give the Caps as many scoring chances as possible.They did finally score, though, off a Kunitz penalty. AO was able to sneak one in off the post. 1-0.
We should all start one of thode White House petitions for Simon Despres to never be a healthy scratch. His positioning was lights-out and was generating offense, something single-handedly.
Crosby-Kunitz-Bennett had a 3-on-1 brewing, but Kunitz telegraphed a pass to Crosby that got intercepted. That son of a bitch was getting one-timed over to Bennett for an easy tap-in if it got through.
Jason Chimera got caught getting the stick up into Jeffrey's arms, and the Pens set up shop on the power play. The first unit was mud, but the second filtered on with Crosby still lurking. Bennett fanned on a shot in front, and Crosby found the puck, giving The Index a quick dish.
Look at the flex. Anyone know if Martin is using a new stick?
Adam Oates looked completely overwhelmed.
The Pens had their usual Penguin After Goal Buzz, but Holtby kept the Caps in it.
Vitale kind of took a bad penalty at the end of the third:
Pens killed it off.
Crosby was up to more shit early in the third. He beat the Caps D by basically passing to himself and got off a nice slapper on Holtby. Bennett destroyed some dude.
Matt Cooke went off for a board on Ovechkin. As borderline as the call was, we would've all been calling for a penalty if the situation was reversed. Things turned from bad to worse when Cooke took a unsportsmanlike. It looked like Cooke shot the puck at the ref when the Pens got possession, but the ref only mentioned the 2 minutes for boarding when he initially announced the penalty over the P.A. system. So our best guess is he chirped him.
Regardless, the PK took the ice for 4 minutes of Hell.
Never mind Ovechkin being on the ice for almost the entire 4 minutes, save for a 30-second breather in the middle of all the madness. By the time the penalty was ending, though, the Caps had all fresh bodies on the ice, except for one guy.
We said we were gonna talk about Mike Ribeiro again. He worked the first 1:20 of the power play then came back on for the last 40 seconds. All that ice time, albeit on the PP, gave him little juice to keep up with Niskanen, who was all-systems-go up the ice to join the rush. Niskanen, meanwhile, had worked 0:38 in the middle of the kill then jumped on with 9 seconds left to kill, so he was fresh.
Eaton was Niskanen's D partner and saw the same chunks of time.
Engelland and Despres both saw 1:12 in the middle of the kill.
Martin and Orpik both did 2:01.
All those numbers add up to 4:01. Close enough.
It should also be noted that the Pens killed those four minutes without Matt Cooke, who averages the second-most PK time per game on the team, behind Adams.
*For those keeping count, the NBCSN camera stayed panned out for the entire rush.
Any other year, the Caps tie the game somehow. That feeling was still palpable for the remainder of the game. MAF wasn't really tested. Caps looked dead.
Crosby had a chance to seal the deal with a Gretzky point-cushioner, but he hit the pipe. He probably couldn't do that again if he tried. Actually he probably could.
Fleury still does the celebration with Ghost Letang:
-- Pens swept the season series on the Caps.
-- What do the Capitals and the Titantic Titanic have in common? Nothing, but their Captains are both jokes.
-- Caps are pretty terrible. We honestly can't even remember anything about them from this game.
-- Bennett. My God.
-- Pens' 2011-2012 streak spanned Feb. 21 -- Mar. 17