The Penguins-Capitals series turned Washington’s way in Game 3 when Matt Niskanen cross-checked Sidney Crosby in the head.

To that point, the series was about hockey, and the Penguins were better than the Capitals, albeit by a narrow margin (and mostly thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury). But that incident sucked the life out of the Penguins, and it hasn’t all come back, even though Crosby did.

The games since are dirtier, more of a ***t show. That’s not good for the Penguins. They used resilience to eke out victory in Game 4 minus Crosby, but the Capitals have run roughshod since.

Tonight, the Penguins must regenerate the energy that served them well in Games 1 and 2. As tired as the Penguins may be, the Capitals have also played a lot of hockey. Fatigue is reality, but it’s not an excuse.

This matchup has been all it was cracked up to be, but it’s been an odd series, too. If not for Fleury, the Caps would have already won. But the Pens dropped Game 3 in overtime, and held a 2-1 lead going into the third period of Game 5. Either team could legit be in the Eastern Conference final by now.

Regardless of tonight’s result, the legendary UFO appear at Jergel’s in Warrendale Oct. 11 (with the amazing Saxon in support). That’s something to look forward to. Meantime, let’s hope the Penguins are, indeed, too hot to handle (ahem).

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