Photo: Dennis Wierzbicki
On Saturday, Caps fans stared into a space trying to figure what Brian MacLellan was doing. Twenty-four later, our brains were unscrambled as his team took to the ice against the Chicago Blackhawks. Sunday NBC Game of the Week actually turned out to be the game of the week, with the enhanced defending champions taking on the NHL’s best team in a possible Stanley Cup Final preview.
Things got off to a great start for the Caps as the third line pounded the Blackhawks zone before Marcus Johansson whacked a line drive past Corey Crawford on the power play. On the next shift, however, the Capitals were too eager to exit the defensive zone and the Blackhawks jumped right on them, forcing Justin Williams to turn the puck over. Patrick Kane, the NHL’s leading point scorer, was alone in front of Braden Holtby to tie the game. The Capitals unleashed a torrent of shots on Crawford in the remaining minutes of the frame, but couldn’t regain the lead.
In the second, the script got flipped. The Blackhawks outshot the Capitals 14-4. Holtby stood tall for most of the period, but a late tripping call on Taylor Chorney gave the Blackhawks a power play. They converted when an excellent cross-ice pass from Teuvo Tervainen fooled the Capitals defense, leading to a wide open net for Jonathan Toews.
The third was a slow period, but Chicago was able to stretch their lead to two. After the Hawks took two penalties and Barry Trotz pulled Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Caps within one on a six-on-three with almost a full power play remaining afterwards. They couldn’t convert. Blackhawks beat Caps 3-2.
This was an entertaining heavyweight bout, but the Capitals came up just short. The title match may be coming later this spring.
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