Pens limit Ovechkin

| Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Penguins knew they had to break rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov and solve left wing Alex Ovechkin.

They might be halfway there.

Washington received a stellar performance from Varlamov and a goal - thanks to a Capitals' bounce - by Ovechkin, but they still lost, 3-2, in overtime during Game 3 Wednesday night at Mellon Arena.

"(Varlamov) was outstanding," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When you get a goaltending effort like that, you have to win because they don't come around every day."

The Capitals hold a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal. Game 4 will be played Friday night at Mellon Arena.

Varlamov made 39 saves in a game was decided by defenseman Kris Letang's game-winning goal 11:23 into overtime. It was the 42nd shot Varlamov faced, and it spoiled his otherwise solid performance.

"(Varlamov is) playing good," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "He's a really good goalie and he keeping us in these couple games. The other guys have to step up more and try to do other things out there."

The Capitals knew they need scoring from someone other than Ovechkin. They received a goal from Backstrom last night with 1:50 remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime, but it wasn't enough.

Heading into last night, Ovechkin almost single-handedly beat the Penguins, scoring four of the Capitals' seven goals. Of course, Varlamov also has been stellar.

The Penguins were determined, though, to slow Ovechkin last night.

"Unless it's a goalie, one guy shouldn't be able to beat you in a seven-game series," defenseman Mark Eaton said after Wednesday's morning skate. "That's got to be our mentality right now, especially because he did beat us in Game 2."

Ovechkin and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had dueling hat tricks in Game 2, but Ovechkin scored two third-period goals to give the Capitals a two-goal lead with 4:38 remaining. Crosby's production was more spread out, as he scored a goal in each period.

After Game 2, the Penguins understandably grew more concerned with Ovechkin and focused on defending the Hart Trophy finalist.

"You want to learn from your mistakes, make adjustments and make sure it doesn't happen again," Eaton said.

"It depends on where you are on the ice. You start with Ovey, try to make sure he's taken care of and work your way out. Right now he has to be our first priority. You can't let one guy kill you the way he has. He's responsibility No. 1."

The Penguins finally received scoring from someone other than Crosby last night, but the Capitals still relied heavily on Ovechkin. Ovechkin scored an odd goal 1:23 into the game when Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury skated out of the crease in search of the puck and lost his stick. The puck took a Capitals' bounce off the boards, and Ovechkin was there to put the puck past a diving, stickless Fleury.

Crosby finally got support from his teammates, as Ruslan Fedotenko, Evgeni Malkin and Letang scored.

Containing Ovechkin has been the Penguins' biggest challenge this series, but it has helped that forwards David Steckel, Backstrom and Tomas Fleischmann have been the only other Capitals to score during this semifinal.

The Capitals know they need offensive support from players other than Ovechkin. The Penguins, on the other hand, are well aware they can't let Ovechkin dominate like he has in the first two games of the series.

Limiting Ovechkin's opportunities last night was critical for the Penguins. He finished with just five shots, as opposed to the combined 21 he fired in the first two games.

Three of Ovechkin's 12 shots in Game 2 got by Fleury. When Ovechkin has that many chances, he's bound to be successful considering his shot, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the NHL.

The way Fleury sees it, limiting Ovechkin's chances should reduce the damage.

"Just be aware where he's at and what he's doing, not give him as much time," Fleury said.

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