GAME FOUR: Pens 5, Capitals 3 — A Goaltenders’ Duel…ON OPPOSITE DAY LOLOL

The Pens are back even in the series after an absurd 5-3 victory in Game 4, a highly entertaining if chaotic affair that likely chopped a few years off the lives of both head coaches. Lots to talk about after this one, but two elements stood out in particular:

1 — Simeon Varlamov quickly morphed from being alternatively unbeatable and untested by the Pens’ finishers to suddenly incredibly vulnerable, allowing inexcusable goals to Sergei Gonchar, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Max Talbot. All three were unscreened, undeflected shots from a relatively far distance, with the Fedotenko goal coming on an exceptionally pathetic bounce off Valramov’s lazy glove hand. Fleury also let up an awful goal to Nicklas Backstrom to let the Caps on the board early, but followed with a couple redemption saves including an absolutely sick glove-snatch of a Sergei Federov wrister heading into a wide open upper-corner. I hesistate to interpret Varlamov’s performance as anything other than a one-game anomaly, but it’ll be up to the Pens to be sure to test him early in Game 5 in front of a restless home crowd in a pivotal series game to force him to prove that it was indeed just a one-game funk.

2 — The officiating in this game was just outright horrible on both sides, and likely didn’t end up affecting the outcome because of its balanced stupidity. The Chris Clark cross-check on Max Talbot never happened, Sergei Federov’s stickless holding penalty on Evgeni Malkin looked like an infraction in real-time but definitely wasn’t one, and the Pens got away with a really clear interference of Tom Poti on their own power play (Poti has now thrown his arms up to the refs three times in two games, including the BS Dupuis penalty in Game 3 — Crosby is a whiner!!!). Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin only received two minutes for a knee-to-knee injuring of Sergei Gonchar, which Empty Netters argues wasn’t a malicious hit and isn’t suspendable, but even the most random, careless high stick is a 4-minute penalty if it draws blood, so how can a half-intentional brutal kneeing only be two minutes? Matt Bradley also got away with two incredibly blatent interferences on the Capitals’ third goal, including pushing Brooks Orpik into the Penguins’ net right before the goal was scored. All in all, the game had a totally chaotic and choppy rhythm, and I’m hoping for the Pens’ crappy power play’s sake that Game 5 errs more on the side of few penalties for both sides as opposed to tons of man advantages for both sides.

Other odds and ends:

Matt Cooke has had a horrible series against his former club, from the awful Ovechkin hold in Game 1 to the second Caps’ goal last night, where he was apparently covering the imaginary Ed Harris character from A Beautiful Mind on the right side of the net. Dupuis has also been ineffective, which is largely expected, but he can’t take dumb penalties like the slash in Game 4 during his twenty seconds of ice time.

Miro Satan with a skillful, significant assist!!! And the contract is totally justified!!!

Hal Gill, Rob Scuderi, and Mark Eaton have all played like legitimate, steady NHL defensemen in this series, and especially in the last two games. Eaton’s initially-regrettable two-year deal looks like a solid bargain for Ray Shero at the moment.

— The team that’s scored the first goal has now lost every game in the series. This is what we stats-lovers call, “A meaningless detail that we hope Versus tries to talk about as if it’s significant.”

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