With eight minutes left in Saturday’s Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, Eric Fehr took a pass from Jason Chimera and sprinted down center ice on his way to a breakaway. Fehr would fire a top-shelf wrist shot that beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury over his glove hand, a goal that would give the Capitals a 3-1 lead.
For most teams, a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes left would be enough to hold on for a victory, but the Caps have well-documented problems doing just that. Yet, on a national stage, the Caps finally found their defensive side and shut down any chances of a Pittsburgh comeback.
It took the Penguins about 6:30 of the remaining 8:01 following Fehr’s goal to threaten in the offensive zone, let alone enter it in the first place. Washington clogged up the neutral zone, something that had proven fatal for themselves against their opposition, and even showed signs of a trap. The Penguins could only hope to dump the puck into the zone and chase it, but they couldn’t even get that far. As soon as the Penguins entered the neutral zone, the Caps cleared it back and made them chase the puck in the opposite direction.
Recent history, especially under the run-and-gun watch of head coach Bruce Boudreau, has repeatedly shown that the Capitals lack a killer instinct when it comes to shutting teams down once they have the lead.