The pre-Super Bowl showdown between the Capitals and the Penguins was significantly lacking sizzle with Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup. But that doesn't mean the Capitals' 3-0 win on Sunday wasn't impressive.
Pittsburgh had won five straight games without its top two offensive players (Crosby has been out since suffering a concussion against Washington in the Winter Classic and Malkin had missed five games before blowing out his knee in his return last week). But the Capitals put the clamps on the Pittsburgh offense by getting gritty and playing a little old-time defensive hockey.
The Capitals kept the Penguins on the perimeter and collapsed around rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth. They blocked 18 Penguins shots and the steady Neuvirth turned aside the 22 shots that found their way around the Capitals' shin guards, stick blades and the pretty-boy face of Mike Green.
The All-Star defenseman took a shanked Brooks Orpik one-timer to the dome -- that shot block wasn't on purpose -- and left a trickle of blood on the ice as he skated to the Capitals' bench. Green is expected to miss Tuesday night's game against the Sharks with concussion-like symptoms.
Back to the defense, the Capitals sucked the excitement out of what the NHL and NBC had hoped would be another marquee matchup between Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. They played the kind of no-nonsense hockey that gets it done in the playoffs, stifling Jordan Staal and the Penguins offense by building a barricade in front of Neuvirth, who could have tended goal in a folding chair.
Sure, it's a lot more exciting when Ovechkin's toe drags are effective and Alexander Semin is hot and healthy. But snoozefest hockey still gets it done in the playoffs (see last year's Canadiens). Hopefully the Capitals file this one away in their memory banks for when April rolls around.
The Capitals, who have won two straight, host the Sharks on Tuesday night and the Kings on Saturday before heading out to the West Coast for the start of a five-game road trip.