The Washington Times - March 8, 2009, 07:43PM

The Caps dominated the third period, erasing a 3-1 deficit. But this one ended up in a shootout and Sidney Crosby had the only tally in the skills contest. Instead of feeling great about playing well and making a great comeback, the Caps were left to be upset about a fourth straight loss.

Such is life in the “New NHL.” I doubt any of the 18,277 fans in attendance would have gone home unhappy about either a) letting the teams play until someone scored or b) a tie.


“I thought we had a great third period and played a good game,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It was a great hockey game. To me it is a 3-3 tie because you know coaches just hate shootouts when you lose. … I think you have to take stock and not get too depressed with this. This was an uplifting game for us – by far our best in the last four.”

Here are a few tidbits from the aftermath:

* This is the first four-game losing streak of the Bruce Boudreau Era. Still, both Boudreau and a couple of his players talked about using a graph metaphor for the season — sometimes the curve on the graph is going up and sometimes it is going down. The Caps feel like they’re on the way back up now.

Yes, Boudreau has a career in motivational speaking waiting for him if he ever desires.

* Brooks Laich was great in the third period. He did most of the work on the first goal of the period — getting the puck out of a scrum to Mike Green and then providing a perfect screen for the goal. Then he potted the game-tying goal.

* Jose Theodore’s stats aren’t getting any better from this game, but he was pretty good. He stopped Crosby twice when he was all alone in the first period, then denied Evgeni Malkin in the third. He only saw 22 shots, but about 18 of them were quality chances.

* Nicklas Backstrom’s play to set up Alexander Semin was awesome. He knocked the puck out of mid-air on Kris Letang’s breakout pass then whipped a perfect backhanded pass into the slot to Semin.

* Alex Ovechkin was a little quiet in the first two periods, but he had a great third period/overtime. He’s got 22 third-period goals. This was also only the sixth time (26-4-2) the Caps have lost when he does light the lamp.

* The Penguins looked like a different team than the previous three times the Caps played them. 1) Dan Bylsma has changed the attitude, much in the same way Bruce Boudreau did here about 15 months ago. 2) Having Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin on a line with Crosby and not guys like Pascal Dupuis and Max Talbot completely changes the dynamics. Now guys like Dupuis and Talbot can be effective third- and fourth-line guys.

* The ultimate irony is the Caps have been so great at home this year, but now they can’t wait to get out on the road. They had a stretch of nine games in 10 at home and proceed to go 3-5-1 in those home games. Now they have seven of eight on the road, which was a nightmare earlier in the season but they’ve gone 6-1-2 in the past nine.

* If players say they don’t see the signs and other extra stuff in the stands, they may be lying:

“There were a lot of signs and pictures and all those pacifiers, so it was good for Sid to get that shootout goal, get us to win,” Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said.

* Finally, can’t stop without a little Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry talk. It was mostly a dud today on the sparring front. Still, it was an entertaining hockey game and both guys had big games (and the shootout, like it or not did put a point on their sticks). Games like this can do just as much to fuel the “rivalry” as some pushing and yapping.

“I told [the media] it is just a hockey game,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes we have some battles and sometimes not. Today we didn’t play a lot against each other and didn’t have lots of hits or chances to.”

And Crosby’s take on being a villian: “I don’t love it, but it doesn’t change the way I do anything out there. I’ve played in some tough arenas before in junior and the NHL – Philly comes to mind. But this one is making its way up there.”