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In my opinion, the winner of tonight’s game will win the series. So far, Pittsburgh and Washington have given the NHL the series they’ve wanted featuring its biggest stars in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. After four games, it’s tied 2-2 and each game brings more and more intensity and bitterness between the teams. There’s not much more a hockey fan can ask for.

Following his worst perfromance of the playoffs by far, it will be interesting to see how Simeon Varlamov bounces back. Uncharacteristically giving up easy goals last night in Pittsburgh, Varlamov, for once, seemed off of his game and was never able to recover from the 3-goal first period he gave up to Pittsburgh. It’s safe to say his performance tonight will determine how well the Caps perform in the rest of the series. If he continues to play at a high caliber, level then the Caps will be fine but if he can’t recover from last night, then the outlook will not look good for the Capitals against their Eastern Conference rivals.

1st Period:

– The Caps first line change came 38 second into the game.

– The crowd is much more vocal than on Monday uring Game 2.

– 2 minutes in the Caps have 3 shots on goal to the Penguins 0.

– 2nd line change – just under 2.5 minutes into the game.

– The Caps just had a string of shots and oppurtunities on Fleury. None went through but it’s clear they’re more aggressive on the offensive side as opposed to Game 4.

– Alexander Semin was called for tripping even though Hal Gill slid on his own.

– So far through the first 10 minutes, the Caps have 8 shots on goal and the Penguins have 5 on goal.

– David Steckel has set the tone for the team as far as attiude goes. He’s been knocking opponents into the boards and defending himself in altercations. He’s definitely got the crowd going.

Grant Paulsen, a great friend to THN, will be covering the game in this blog for the second period.

– I don’t know why they can’t seem to do this on the road but they have been pressuring Fleury a lot more frequently tonight.

– Sergei Federov just laid out Mazime Talbot into the boards, giving the Caps an extra offensive scoring oppurtunity.

– With 1:41 left, the shot count is 11-9 in favor of the Capitals.

– The first period ended fittingly with a scuffle between both teams.

2nd Period:

***The time listed in each update is what was on the scoreboard when whatever was cool enough to blog about happened. Listing the time of game (how much time’s left in the period) takes math skills that the good people at George Mason University don’t require me to possess as a communications major.***

20:00 = All I can say is, wow. What an atmosphere! A handful of us media folks are sitting with the crowd today, and I’m lucky enough to be one of them. Not enough space in the press box meant that those who wanted to move down to the 400 level could do so. Fear not: we’re still able to bring pop corn and sodas to our seats. I know you guys were worried about that.

17:09 = Jay Beagle, who was promoted from Hershey prior to Game 4, just got into a scuffle in front of Pittsburgh’s net. Good sign. One thing Washington doesn’t do enough is play tough in front of the net and irritate goal-tenders.

16:00 = Simeon Varlamov just made two saves in a span of about 25 seconds. The stops were his 13th and 14th. He’s definitely seeing the puck better tonight, after giving up 5 goals in Game 4. (He had only given up more than two twice in the playoffs previoius).

14:43= The Penguins just got on the board. Miroslav Satan had the puck left of net and flicked it to Jordan Staal who one-timed the puck low and into the net past Simeon Varlamov. 1-0 Penguins.

13:40 = Alexander Ovechkin just answered Staal’s tally with one of his own. Ovechkin rocketed a wrister off the post and into the net from left of the net. The goal is Ovechkin’s sixth of the series and 11th in 16 career games against Pittsburgh.

11:30 = Jay Beagle doesn’t plays more like a pitbull. He just delivered a monster hit in neutral-ice that laid out a Penguin and brought the crowd to their feet.

9:00 = The hitting has picked up immensely and the Capitals are smelling blood. John Erskine and David Steckel have both brought ‘the wood’ on a pair of hits in the last 30 seconds. The crowd is going bonkers for the first time today.

7:12 = Simeon Varlamov just made a wicked glove save on a wrist-shot destined for the top-shelf. Varlamov’s save count is at 21. (Marc-Andre Fleury has made 20).

5:55 = Varlamov just made another nice glove save and then pounced on top of a rebound like a defensive lineman falling on a fumble. The Penguins have been able to muster a few chances in their last few shifts, but this penalty has still belonged to the Capitals.

5:41 = The Caps are headed to the power play. Too many men on the ice. It looked like Hal Gill was the Penguin who jumped off the bench too soon. Lets see if Washington can make good on their second chance with a man-advantage today.

5:25 = Nicklas Backstrom just gave Washington a 2-1 edge, 16 seconds into Washington’s power play. Sergei Fedorov and some guy named Ovechkin assisted. The goal is Backstrom’s second in as many games. It also ended a power play drought for the ‘Caps, who had been struggling with an extra man. They only registered one shot in 7:10 worth of power play time in Game 4, and weren’t able to get much going in their first chance of this game either. That’s all insignificant now, thanks to a well-placed Backstrom shot that snuck past Fleury.

2:34 = Stop in play. “C-A-P-S, CAPS, CAPS, CAPS” is being showered ice-ward from the rafters. A quick note: the team that has scored first has lost each of the last four games of this series. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

0:40 = Nicklas Backstrom is good at hockey. He just undressed a Penguin with a silly toe-drag move at center ice that led to a thunderous ovation. Backstrom’s (13 points in the playoffs) gets lost in Ovechkin’s spotlight, but this kid is an elite player.

0:00 = Horn sounds. Standing ovation given.

3rd Period:

19:09 = Ruslan Fedotenko scores, tieing the game at 2-2 (4th of the playoffs). Assits to Evgeni Malkin (8) and Kristopher Letang (6).

15:25 = Boyd Gordon just took a slap-shot to the mid-section. He was doubled over on the ice for a moment and he’s walking back towards the dressing room now. Gordon’s played well. I actually asked Mike Vogel, of washcaps.com, who he thought had been Washington’s best player through the first two players. He said Gordon, calling him a “ball of fire” in today’s game.

13:33 = For the second time in as many periods, Pittsburgh’s taken a one-goal advantage. Varlamov – who has made 27 saves – was sprawled out with his body contorting in different directions as a rebound was slapped past him and into the net by Matt Cooke (1st). Give assists to Jordan Staal (3) and Tyler Kennedy (2).

The laptop Grant and I were using ran out of battery power early in the third period. We apologize for any inconvenience.

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