Wednesday's Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins changed the course of the series, giving Pittsburgh new life and putting pressure on the Capitals heading into tonight's game.
Sovetsky Sport's Pittsburgh reporter Oleg Mezheritsky spoke with Ruslan Fedotenko(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes) of the Penguins after Game 3 (the article in Russian is here). I spoke with Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov(notes) after in preview of Game 4, including some words about the threats against his teammate Alexander Ovechkin(notes).
First, a translation of the Penguins interviews, beginning with Fedotenko:
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Q. Fedotenko on Game 3:
FEDOTENKO: We played really well in all three games of this series. We just have to score a little more on the power play. And on the penalty kill we have to play more accurate. But after two losses we did not hang our heads and kept playing aggressive, physical hockey.
How did you manage to score against Varlamov?
Talbo and I broke two on one and I wanted to give him a saucer pass. But the puck struck a defenseman's stick, and came back to me. So I just scored practically on an empty net.
What series is more difficult for you - against Philadelphia or Washington?
The Capitals have a lot of skilled players. They try to beat you one on one. They convert on almost all their chances, especially on power play. But I think that it was tougher to play against the Flyers, even if you cannot say so by [looking at the] score.
Now, here's Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins:
Q. Malkin on Game 3:
MALKIN: In this game I decided to take on the game myself more. The last games against Washington were not so good for me. That's why I decided to come into the game a little different. I held the puck more, gave more hits...
In the middle of the game you started playing with the puck, going past the Capitals' defense as if they were schoolchildren. Did you gain confidence?
Of course. When you're on your game you have to lead your line. My legs were pushing me to attack.
Why couldn't you win in regulation?
Varlamov played excellent. We created a ton of chances, outshot the opponent two to one. But somewhere we were unlucky. But Washington, for example, were lucky on the first goal. There was a rebound on an open net.
How did you manage to shut down Ovechkin? He was not as noticeable tonight as he was last game when he scored the hat trick...
We have to thank our defensemen. They did not give him any ways [to go forward] at all, challenged him.
Is this series tougher than the previous one?
Every round is getting more difficult. It is a long season and the fatigue is accumulated. And all games are every other day. And Washington is playing quicker than Philadelphia.
But you studied the Capitals really well.
Yes, we know how they play and what to expect from them, Varlamov reacts really well on the initial shot. We have to be tricky, shoot more. In the first [two] games Simeon made mistakes, even if there were only a few.
But the guy is only 21, it is understandable...
Of course he is great. I am happy for him. For us it is unexpected that Varlamov is showing such defiance. But we are used to his game now and don't see any secrets in it.
Now, here is my conversation with Simeon Varlamov from last night about Game 3, looking forward to Game 4 and the threats against Ovechkin.
Q. Tell us a few words about last game. Did you forget it already? Or remember some of it?
VARLAMOV: [sighing] Of course some memories remain. Pittsburgh was a little more active in the beginning. They outshot us. What else can I say? We lost, took a lot of penalties, which probably influenced the outcome as well. We had 7 penalties, and if you want to win a game against such an opponent you cannot take so many penalties.
What was the problem with taking so many penalties? Discipline?
I don't know. Maybe because we wanted to win so much, maybe that's the reason. But how do you usually get penalties? You get them because you lose in speed sometimes, sometimes it's the nerves.
It actually looked like Washington played well in the first 10 minutes, and then they were just chasing the Penguins and couldn't catch up with them.
Pittsburgh played really well yesterday, especially in defense. And we didn't create enough dangerous chances. It is good that we converted the ones we were presented with. It was also good that we played well in some of the most important periods of the game, especially when they pulled one back. We did have a chance to win and make the score of the series 3-0. It is a shame that we were unable to do this. And an unlucky bounce did its job.
What did you do today? Just relax? You did not have practice.
Yes, of course when you are given a day off everyone tries to rest and get ready for the next game. Everyone realizes how important the next game is, because the score in the series could be either 3-1 or 2-2. I personally spent the entire day at the hotel resting, playing video games. Then I went out to have dinner with the guys, and now I am back to the hotel watching hockey [Western semis].
Who are you sharing your room with?
I am staying alone, they put me in a room alone.
I haven't been told anything yet. The line up will be announced tomorrow before the morning skate. And after the game on Friday we will be told who will be in goal on Saturday. Actually, it is very difficult to play two games in a row. It is actually difficult to play every other day, because you want more time to recover to be able to play to full strength, just a little bit more time. Sometimes, one day is not enough to fully recover. But when you have games one day and then the very next day, I think not everyone will be able to recover in less than a day. But this is playoff, and the calendar puts two teams in the same boat. It's OK.
(Note: Some people have questioned my statements and label them as rumors. I wanted to stress to them that I was giving my opinion on the matter and did not provide a statement of fact. The opinion was based on general observations and common sense that if you're faced with 40-plus shots, you may be unable to recover to be 100 percent the very next day. Varlamov at 50% on Saturday might not be enough for the Caps.)
Of course when you face 40 shots and then have to play the next game, it will be more difficult for you to recover than someone who only faces 20 shots. But sometimes you have games when you face 20 shots but the game is constantly in your zone, there is constant pressure and you have to constantly move around. So, sometimes it doesn't depend on the number of shots you face, but on the amount of time your opponent spends in your zone. And sometimes you are more tired after that than the goalie who faced 40 shots.
Did any of your teammates talk to you after the game on Wednesday? Maybe to apologize for letting you face so much pressure and so many shots.
My job is to catch pucks. What kind of apologies? [laughing] All the guys tried their best, gave it their all, tried to win. I don't think anyone played 'on one skate.' This is playoffs and you have to give 100%. And that's exactly what our team did. But we were unlucky. Of course you cannot say that Pittsburgh didn't do anything. They had over 40 shots on goal, created a lot of scoring chances. Overall, they just played excellent in yesterday's game, just like in the previous two. They are a very good opponent. A bit of luck was on their side, but I cannot say that they did not deserve to win.
Do you guys have bodyguards over in Pittsburgh?
We have a security guy. He is always there. When you exit the bus there are Pittsburgh fans everywhere asking for autographs. Some of them are very aggressive doing that. And if you don't sign an autograph, simply because you cannot sign for everyone, and you know that some fans are not genuine, who don't try to enjoy it, but make money off of it, you can just see these people [in the crowd] and don't want to sign for them, because then they sell everything on the internet. I am not talking about me, but I am talking about Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Viktor Kozlov(notes) and Sergei Fedorov(notes).
I am sure the vast majority of Pittsburgh fans are great guys. But the reason I asked that question is because of the reports that police in Pittsburgh is investigating threats made against Alex Ovechkin. That why I am asking whether there is any additional security there? Does Alex know about the threat? Do you know about the threat?
To be honest with you I haven't heard anything about it. It is just weird for me that fans can react this way, making threats. It's just a game.
Alright. Let's get back to the series. How important is it to win the next game for Washington not to go home with the series tied at 2-2 and play the very next day?
Of course we will try to do everything to win. We know how important this win is, because 3-1 is not 2-2. It's just it is easier to breathe when you're 3-1 up. And you feel that the next game could be the last game, and you want to win as soon as possible. We will try to attack more. Of course we want to win one game away. Our intention is only to win. But I also know that Pittsburgh will come out with the same intention, to even the series.