- - Thursday, April 27, 2017


Before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, Verizon Center workers handed out red glow sticks to the more than 18,000 fans that packed the arena.

With the lights out before they introduced the two teams, the Verizon Center looked like a red light district.

Then the Capitals proceeded to play as if they prepared for this series by spending a week at the House of the Rising Sun, going on to lose 3-2 to Pittsburgh in Game 1 of this best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Saturday night, back at the red light district.

“The first 10 minutes, we started a little bit slow,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. 

When asked what they needed to do differently in the next game, Trotz said, “A better start.”

How many times have we heard that?

By the third period, Washington had come back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 2-2 early in the third period, thanks to goals by Alex Ovechkin near the end of the second period and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the third period.

The last red light that mattered, though, was the one that Nick Bonino lit up for the Penguins with 7:24 left to play, giving Pittsburgh the 3-2 lead and, thanks to remarkable goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, that lead stood up.

If you are wearing your Capitals rose-colored glasses (now that would be a worthy promotional giveaway) you can, I guess, look at the shot attempts – 82 for Washington compared to 41 for Pittsburgh, and the Capitals had a big edge on shots on goal – 35 to 21.

But they were battling against a team that had built up a 2-0 lead, and, within minutes of losing it, gained it back, as if this was business as usual for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby and company sized up the lack of fight in the Capitals early in the game, and it wasn’t hard to make that determination. Washington playing at home in the first game of the second round of the playoffs before a juiced up home crowd with the intensity of a game in Edmonton in February.

And Crosby made them pay.

When do the Capitals make the Penguins pay?

“They are up one, so our next game has to be our best game,” Trotz said.

But are the Capitals capable of playing their best game in the second round of the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Nothing we have seen to date tells us that they are.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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