Thu Dec 01 10:55pm EST
WASHINGTON, DC — In Dale Hunter's first game as Washington Capitals coach, they had 19 shots and one goal in a loss to the St. Louis Blues. Game No. 2? Seventeen shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins, including a paltry two shots in the third period, in a 2-1 loss.
In the final moments of the third period, the Capitals couldn't even corral the puck, let alone mount an attack with an extra skater.
"We knew we needed a strong defensive effort," said Chris Kunitz(notes), whose third-period individual effort in the Caps' zone and sneaky shot past Tomas Vokoun(notes) proved to be the game-winner. "We played great: sticks on pucks, getting the pucks around the wall, out of our end. Making them do some things they didn't want to do."
The win for the Penguins was their first in regulation against the Capitals in 14 games, having gone 0-11-2 in that stretch. It was the first time Coach Dan Bylsma had beaten them in regulation.
"There's a lot about that team that's scary," he said. "Today, especially in the second, the came at us hard, forechecked hard and were tough to handle that way. Very aggressive on the forecheck. That's maybe something we hadn't seen [before Dale Hunter]."
The Capitals and their fans continue to see losses. Washington is in a 2-7-1 tailspin, including two tightly played losses in Hunter's first two games. Against the Penguins, they were facing a team playing two rookies in place of defensemen Kris Letang(notes) and Zbenyk Michalek, but couldn't take advantage of it.
"They're learning a new system. But we have to move the puck quicker out of our end. We spend too much time, and it wears out our offense," said Hunter.
Meanwhile, in the offensive zone, Capitals leading scorer Jason Chimera(notes) (10 goals) said: "We had a lot of cycle time, but didn't get pucks to the net. They kind of threw everything at the net. We kind of waited for perfect plays."
Some additional notes …
• What some thought was a save-of-the-year candidate from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury(notes), on a Nicklas Backstrom(notes) shot at a gaping net, actually went off the iron, he said. Via Seth Rorabaugh, Backstrom said of the play: "What I saw, it hit the cross bar. I don't know what you saw."
• It was the teams' first game since the infamous Arron Asham fight against Jay Beagle, in which he bloodied and concussed the Capitals forward and mocked him with a "go to sleep" celebration. Moments after he assisted on Adams' goal, Asham answered the bell with hulking John Erskine(notes):
Lots of big swings, not many connections, but the end of that chapter for the teams.
"I knew I was going to fight coming in. The guys over there have a lot of pride. We got it over with early and played some hockey," said Asham, who hadn't fought Erskine before, but played with him on Long Island. "I knew I was going to have to do it. I wasn't backing down."
While speaking about the fight, Asham was interrupted by Bylsma, who shook his hand and thanked him for the effort.
"I gotta be better there obviously, but for some reason we were taking them all on his strong side. I gotta get better on my forehand side. I'd say 75-percent were on his backhand, on his strong side," said Crosby. "It made a tough night a little bit tougher when you're trying to win draws."
The Pensblog had the video, saying Carlson "got knocked into Maryland by Orpik, and then he did this." Worthy of the Shanahammer?