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Monday, May 4, 2009
First-period report: Um, where's the 5-on-5 play?


WASHINGTON -- Well, that was a bit of a weird period, no? The Penguins finally broke through on the power play for their first extra-man goal since late in Game 3 of the first round. Sidney Crosby's goal from close in -- how did he sneak in behind the Caps' defense undetected? -- gave the Pens a 1-0 lead through the first period.

But the Penguins have to be a bit disheartened after not being able to take advantage of a 46-second 5-on-3 late in the first. They looked dreadful for the most part, although Simeon Varlamov did make two sterling stops in a row, on Crosby in close and then a brilliant glove save off a wicked Sergei Gonchar shot.

The Caps had a couple of power-play opportunities, but both penalty-killing units are making life difficult.

• I rarely slag officials on their calls, but the one call in the first that I still don't get is Kris Letang's great diving poke check on Dave Steckel just as Steckel was driving to the net. Letang timed it perfectly and got all puck, knocking it into the corner before submarining Steckel. Letang still got nailed with a tripping call for a play that I'm pretty sure 30 NHL coaches would love to see their player make.

How else is a guy supposed to make a play on that kind of rush?

All right, that's my lone rant on the officiating. Maybe. Thought the rest of the penalties were right on.

• Wonder when players will learn they can't simply hack another player's stick as Bill Guerin did in the first. Because most sticks are now made out of some sort of balsa wood (or tissue paper), the stick breaks in half and Guerin goes to the box.

The Pens were lucky Washington Capitals captain Chris Clark took a needless elbowing penalty when he clocked Letang after the whistle had blown on the play. Clark is as tough as they come, but I bet he wishes he could have taken that one back. He was fortunate he didn't get a double-minor for his troubles.

• OK, pop quiz time. Who had the most shots in the first?

Mark Eaton? No.

Shaone Morrisonn? No.

Ah, Alex Ovechkin? Right. Once again, Ovechkin is leading the pack, as he does most nights, with five shots on goal. His best chance came on the power play when he snuck in from the point, but Marc-Andre Fleury slid across and got his right pad on it. Great save.

Ovechkin also whiffed on a very similar play later.

If the teams ever get around to playing some five-on-five hockey, it seems to slightly favor the Penguins; but with all the penalties, it looks like the power plays might decide it and that doesn't bode well for the sputtering Pittsburgh power play.