- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday’s Best Bet on Television

The Capitals have no time to think about their poor effort in Game 4. 7 p.m., CSN

Series spinning out of Caps’ grasp

In the NHL, a playoff series can turn quicker than the puck that bounced off Simeon Varlamov’s glove and into the back of the Capitals’ net Friday night.

In truth, though, the Caps-Penguins series had veered in a different direction well before that — the second period of Game 3, to be exact. After an even first period, the Penguins shifted into a higher gear for the next 50-odd minutes, an energy level that Pittsburgh hadn’t exhibited in the first two games at Verizon Center.

Why it took so long for Pittsburgh to find its stride against the Caps is a mystery. Maybe the Penguins needed to be punched in the mouth a couple of times before they could wake up. What is certain is that the Penguins’ frenetic pace — which they adopted with the arrival of coach Dan Bylsma in February and rode to a Eastern Conference quarterfinal victory against the Flyers — is back.

It’s a buzz saw of an attack that can make ordinary five-on-five action look like an extended power play. In Game 3, the scheme was so effective you could have spotted the Caps an extra player and a GPS, and they still wouldn’t have been able to make their way to center ice.

Off the ice, the tone of the series has transformed as well.

After Washington went up 2-0, the Penguins bellyached about the curvature of Alex Ovechkin’s stick and the shower of hats on the Verizon ice. But lately the Caps have been the whiners, griping about the penalty disparity.

Whether it takes a fight, an animal sacrifice or (brace yourself) another goalie swap, the Caps had better shift the mojo back in their favor — and fast — or they will be bounced from this series.

TWT Five ” Reasons to Love NHL Playoff Overtime

1. No commercials — Without the ads, it’s all about the game. Now that’s a novel concept.

2. Anything goes (almost) — No more ticky-tack penalties. Even a severed limb may not draw a call.

3. Marathon nights — Nine years ago, I stayed up until 2:35 a.m. to watch Keith Primeau’s wrister lift the Flyers past the Penguins in the fifth overtime.

4. Unlikely heroes — From Brad May’s “Mayday” deke on Ray Bourque to Uwe Krupp’s Cup clincher, this is when no-name players do the one thing they’ll be remembered for.

5. No shootout — Thankfully, playoff overtime is still settled the old-fashioned way. It’s time to admit the shootout is a failure.

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