Huet and Ovechkin Lead Caps
Caps goalie Cristobal Huet was downright outstanding tonight and Alexander Ovechkin added goals number 64 and 65 of the season to lead Washington to a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay and put Washington on the brink of making the playoffs. The Caps gave up an early goal in this contest but dominated throughout the remainder of the game. The only reason it was close was because of the stellar play of Lightning goalie Karri Ramo, who made 36 saves on 39 shots. Huet made several key stops when the game was tied and this victory tonight was his seventh straight and he is now 10-2 since coming over on February 26th from the Montreal Canadiens at the trade deadline.
Washington played without defensemen Shaone Morrisonn due to an upper body injury and Coach Bruce Boudreau was forced to play Steve Eminger for nine very shaky minutes as his sixth defensemen. John Erskine logged 12 minutes in a below average performance as well. As expected, Boudreau gave the bulk of the defensive minutes to Mike Green (27 minutes), Tom Poti (almost 25 minutes), and Jeff Schultz (23 minutes). I thought that Poti was outstanding against Tampa Bay and had one of his best games of the season at a critical time for the Caps.
Matt Cooke and Sergei Fedorov were also very good tonight. Fedorov was outstanding once again killing penalties, especially on the four minute minor that was assessed to Erskine for a careless high stick when the score was 2-1 with just over 10 minutes left.
The only player other than Eminger and Erskine that I thought did not play very well was Donald Brashear who endured one horror show shift in which he was lazy with the puck sending it for icing when one more stride would have put him at the red line for a legal dump in. In the NHL coaches are not allowed to change players when their team is called for icing so Brashear and his mates were stuck on the ice for a long shift that ended with the Caps being called for a penalty.
With this win the Caps are now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 92 points. Philadelphia is in 9th with 91 points and have two games left while the Caps only have one contest remaining: Saturday night at home against the Florida Panthers. If the Caps win Saturday they will be in the playoffs if any of the following occur:
The Boston-Ottawa game on Friday night ends in regulation.
Ottawa loses to Boston in regulation on Friday night.
Boston only gets two points or less in its last two contests (at Ottawa, Buffalo).
Carolina loses on Friday night to Florida (in regulation or OT).
Philadelphia does not win both of its last two games (New Jersey, Pittsburgh).
So right now the chances of Washington making the playoffs looks good provided they take care of business and beat the Panthers on Saturday night. Stay tuned.