Alex Ovechkin

Winter Classic post game reactions to Washington’s 3-1 win over Pittsburgh

After what turned out to be an incredible night of hockey outdoors at Heinz Field, albeit a bit on the soggy side, the Capitals came away with a 3-1 win to send their fans home happy and the homestanding fans away feeling gloomy.

As for the game, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was disappointed with the loss but the first question that came to him was about the controversial hit he took from David Steckel at the end of the second period. If you’re wondering why there was no retribution for the Pens captain getting taken out, Sid says there’s a good reason.

“I just found out two seconds ago who it was. I couldn’t even tell you what happened. I think the puck was going the other way. And I turned and next thing you know, I am down. I can’t really comment on it,” Crosby said.

Crosby was unhurt by the hit but recounted the situation not really sure how dirty the hit was, if at all.

“It’s pretty far behind the play. Maybe the refs didn’t see it. A lot of people didn’t. Got [hit] in my head, that’s for sure. But I don’t know how it developed.”

As for the victorious Capitals, their post game chatter was much more jubilant and blown away by the entire setting outdoors in front of 68,111 fans, even more so with the heavy representation of Caps fans in Pittsburgh.

“You can see, you can hear when we score goals how many people were fans of Washington,” Alex Ovechkin happily recalled.

“When it was the National Anthem, and they are screaming… It was unbelievable.”

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau added to that sentiment.

“When you walk and you see all those people in there and whether they’re booing or cheering, it’s an experience I’ll never forget. And when you come into this atmosphere and you’re playing arguably the best team in the league and you win, it was more than just a game to everybody.”

With the weather conditions being as seemingly difficult as they were, none of the players or coaches had any complaints about what went down tonight. They made it clear that it was affecting both teams so no one got an unfair advantage out of it. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear that the NHL did everything in their power to ensure the integrity of the ice and the game.

“We (Bettman, Colin Campbell, Dan Craig) were at every stoppage, in communication with the officials and both teams and no one was complaining about it.”

Bettman then added this bit that’s likely to get over analyzed by everyone:

“And I’ve heard ice complaints when we’re indoors in a lot of places as well. I think we were fine, just fine.”

The weather tonight is going to be more of a talking point than the game and that’s really disappointing, all things considered, but it wasn’t an issue for the guys playing. Period.

The rain did create issues for the fans in the stands for sure and the elements are a virtually unavoidable aspect in a game like this, but the commissioner does make a good point about the pace of the game. Yes, the passes weren’t as crisp as you’d expect and the offensive creativity was missing in this environment but the teams adjusted to make it work for them. You make the best with what you’ve got and the Capitals certainly did that tonight.

In that respect it makes it similar to playing in a building when it’s 90 degrees outside and the ice is soft and choppy. The speed gets cut down and teams have to win games a bit dirtier than with finesse and skill. For some teams that works in their favor and not so much for others. For teams as good as Washington and Pittsburgh, they could make the right adjustments.

All in all, both teams were grateful for the experience to play tonight both coaches made it clear that having this experience makes it all worthwhile. Basking in the atmosphere here tonight was unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it left as much of an impression on me as it did with the players. All right, not quite as much as celebrating a win or playing in front of that many home fans but memorable just the same.

Ducks give Bruins first loss under Cassidy, putting … Islanders in wild card

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Korbinian Holzer #5 of the Anaheim Ducks pushes David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins during the second period of a game at Honda Center on February 22, 2017 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Wednesday was a night of futility in the Eastern Conference wild card races, so it make sense that a team that didn’t even play ended up grabbing the second spot.

To recap:

  • The Florida Panthers began the night in the second wild card spot. However, they were knocked down the totem pole when they lost in regulation to the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Boston Bruins inherited the second wild card spot from Florida, but the Anaheim Ducks just gave them their first loss under Bruce Cassidy. With that defeat coming in regulation, it meant that the Bruins’ stay in the East’s top eight lasted mere hours.
  • So, congrats to the New York Islanders, who enjoyed the rare tiebreaker treat of climbing into playoff position even though they didn’t even play on Wednesday.

(The Philadelphia Flyers were out of reach here, but they didn’t do themselves any favors in losing to the Washington Capitals.)

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were kept off the board as Jonathan Bernier won one for the Ducks, who stay right behind the Edmonton Oilers in a battle for second in the Pacific.

Despite Pastrnak’s -3 rating in this one, Marchand probably had the toughest night thanks to Bernier and Josh Manson:

This one hurts, but it’s also a reminder that there will probably be plenty of twists and turns in the races for the lower spots in the East and Atlantic Division. With that in mind, the Bruins have to shake it off and get ready to face the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals

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Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.

Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.

The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.

The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.

The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.

Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:

Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.

Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot

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The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.

But, hey, at least it was a win.

The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.

It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.

The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.

1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)

The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.

Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)

Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW

The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.

With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.

Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.

The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.

But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?

Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.

And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.

* – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.