Luis Alvarez/Associated Press
The Capitals have frequently hosted games on Super Bowl Sunday throughout the days of the “Rock the Red” era. The 2019-20 season will no different as they host the Metropolitan Division rival Pittsburgh Penguins in a nationally-televised matinee game this Sunday, February 2, scheduled to allow the fans (and players) to arrive home from the game in order to watch the big game. In her latest Retro Recap, Diane Doyle takes a look back on a Caps-Pens matchup 10 years ago on the day of the “Big Game”.
Heading into the game on February 7, 2010, the Capitals held a record of 40-12-6 and the best record in the NHL, and were riding a 13-game winning streak (the longest in franchise history). The Penguins, then the defending Stanley Cup Champions, held a record of 35-22-2.
Another major storyline about the game besides the Capitals’ winning streak and the hype of the Caps’/Penguins rivalry was the weather. A major snowstorm had hit the Washington D.C. area and much of the surrounding mid-Atlantic region, beginning in earnest on Friday, and becoming more intense on Friday evening (February 5), while the Capitals’ game with the Atlanta Thrashers was in progress. In fact, the Metro, D.C.’s subway system, planned to close their outdoor stations early due to the weather, prompting many of the fans in attendance to leave the game early.
The logistics of getting to what was then-Verizon Center (now Capital One Arena) on February 7, 2010 would be even worse for the opponents than it would be for any of the Capitals players or the fans, who at least got to sleep in their own homes the night before. The Penguins were scheduled to play the Montreal Canadiens in a matinee game the prior day, a game they lost 5-3. Due to the fact that the snowstorm had covered much of the mid-Atlantic region and resulted in the closure of all nearby airports, as well as the airport in Philadelphia, the closest airport the Penguins could fly to after the game in Montreal was in Newark, New Jersey. Even Amtrak service was limited, foreclosing the option of flying to New York City and then taking Amtrak to Washington. As a result, the Penguins ended up flying to Newark and taking the bus from there, getting to their hotel at 2:00 AM.
During the first two periods, the Capitals looked like the more exhausted team, as Pittsburgh jumped to a lead when captain Sidney Crosby scored at the 6:59 mark of the first, unassisted. He added a power play goal exactly three minutes later as a result of a Brooks Laich interference penalty, with assists from Evgeni Malkin and Alex Goligoski, giving him 39 goals for the season and the Penguins a 2-0 lead over their hosts.
Fireworks ensued before the end of the period, following a hit by Pittsburgh’s Craig Adams on Alex Ovechkin, which sent the Caps’ captain into the sideboards. Capitals right wing Mike Knuble took exception to Adams’ hit and the two fought briefly before being separated by the officials. In addition to earning a fighting penalty, Knuble also earned an instigator and 10-minute game misconduct, which put the Penguins on the power play and removed Knuble from the ice for an extended period of time, a total of 17 minutes, which would include the remainder of the first and nearly 13 minutes of the second. Despite this, Pittsburgh did not score on the subsequent power play. The two teams headed into the first intermission with the Pens leading, 2-0.
The first part of the middle frame saw the Capitals continue to struggle to beat Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, until the 9:01 mark of the period, when the team showed signs of life on a goal from Ovechkin, narrowing the deficit to 2-1.
Less than three minutes later, Jordan Staal scored for Pittsburgh at the 11:43 mark, increasing the Penguins’ lead to 3-1. Once again, chaos broke out and several penalties were doled out to both teams, including two-minute roughing minors to both Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and a 10-minute game misconduct to Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals and Tyler Kennedy of Pittsburgh. With Knuble’s 10-minute game misconduct penalty still carrying over from the first period, the Caps’ entire first-line was now in the penalty box. Less than two minutes later at the 13:07 mark, Staal scored his second goal of the game to extend the Pens’ lead to a commanding 4-1.
At 17:12, Capitals forward Eric Fehr scored his 15th of the season to cut the deficit to 4-2, which carried into the second intermission.
The Caps would put themselves back into the game just 6:51 into the final frame of regulation, as Ovechkin scored his second goal of the contest to put the Caps within one. Ovechkin had backhanded in a shot from defenseman Tom Poti from the point, with Backstrom also recording an assist on the play. Ovechkin completed the hat trick to tie the score just over four minutes later at the 11:06 mark, rifling a one-timer past Fleury to knot the game at 4-4. Knuble and Backstrom, who had won the faceoff, assisted on the play. The crowd threw hats onto the ice and chanted, “M-V-P” as the goal was announced.
Neither team scored for the remainder of the period, although the Caps had to kill a penalty by Jeff Schultz, who was called for slashing at 15:52. As a result, the game proceeded to overtime.
At the 2:26 mark of the overtime period, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was called for a high-stick on the Capitals’ Alexander Semin and earned a game misconduct for complaining to the referees, putting the Caps on a power play, with four men against three.
Nearly a half-minute later, at the 2:49 mark, Knuble scored the game-winning goal, knocking in a shot by Ovechkin, who had received a pass from Mike Green. Knuble’s game winner came just moments after Ovechkin’s prior shot had hit the post.
The song “Glory Days” played in the background at Verizon Center as the Caps celebrated their 14th victory in a row, sending the fans home happy for a night of football.
By Diane Doyle