Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau had never lost three straight games at home and Alexander Semin made sure that would not happen on Saturday night as his slap shot blast sailed past unsuspecting Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and into the net with 8:12 remaining in the contest to give Washington a 2-1 win before a sold out Verizon Center crowd. The goal was Semin’s 18th of the season in just 28 games.
The Caps, who had lost three straight games before turning in a stellar performance in Pittsburgh with a 6-3 win on Wednesday night, once again played a solid game building on the victory against the Penguins and if not for some very good goaltending by Thomas this game would have been more lopsided in favor of Washington. The Caps dominated play for most of the evening and out shot the Bruins, 30-24. With the win the Caps moved to 29-14-3 (61 points) while the Bruins dropped to 33-8-4 (70 points). The Caps lead the second place Florida Panthers by 12 points in the Southeast Division, although Florida has two games in hand.
“We watched a lot of video and saw some things that opened our eyes and we were getting away from our game and I think we tightened it up a lot the last two games,” said Boudreau on his analysis of the three game slide that preceded the Caps two game turnaround this week.
Washington continues to take their game to a higher level when they play the best teams in the East and their overall record against their conference is now 23-6-3, something that pleases Boudreau.
“We talked about it today that when you grow up you want to play against the best team and you love challenges and we wanted, quite frankly, to end our slide at home. We like having the best [home] record in the East and it was an important game for us,” said Boudreau on his team’s ability to step up and come through against the good teams. The Caps are now 19-3-1 at the Verizon Center this season.
Jose Theodore got the win in net stopping 23 of 24 shots giving up only a power play marker to Marc Savard in the middle period. Boudreau was very pleased with his goaltender on Saturady.
“I thought [Jose Theodore] made a half of a dozen great saves tonight,” said Boudreau.
As for the refereeing by Kelly Sutherland and Brad Meier, there were a couple of questionable penalties, including a kneeing call on Alexander Ovechkin, who appeared to hit Bruins defender Denis Wideman clean against the boards, that irked Boudreau.
“I think it was a hit but you know what, if you don’t call it a penalty their griping and they call a penalty and we’re griping so I didn’t think it was a penalty…but we’ll just let it go,” commented Boudreau.
Boudreau was also not thrilled with an elbowing call on defenseman John Erskine with 1:41 to go in the game but he was happy with #4’s overall game on Saturday.
“That was sort of an incidental hit and it happened away from the puck so I don’t think John is trying to elbow the guy, but I thought he played a strong game. He knows when he is out there with Mike Green he is not counted on for offense, just counted on to back Mike up, and make the simple plays. I thought he did that and did a good job at that,” finished Boudreau.
The Caps first goal of the night came just 70 seconds after Savard put the Bruins up 1-0 on a beautiful back door pass by Michael Nylander to Green on the power play. Nylander has definitely stepped his game up since being a healthy scratch against Columbus last Friday and he has four points in those four games. As for Green, he continues to bury the puck and despite missing 13 games this season, he is only two goals behind Nashville defensemen Shea Weber (14 goals) for the lead in tallies by defensemen.
Notes: Washington won the face-off battle, 25-22, but Nicklas Backstrom was 4-8. Bruins defensemen Zdeno Chara led all players in ice time with 29:50 and Green led the Caps with 28:18. Ovechkin had no points on Saturday but had nine shots on goal and three hits (four if they don’t call a penalty on him for his hit on Wideman). Defensemen Karl Alzner only played 13:53 tonight but he was much better than the previous four games and Boudreau was pleased with his play while reminding everyone that #27 is only 20 years old and not a 10 year NHL veteran. Defensemen Tom Poti continues to be on long term injury for Washington. Captain Chris Clark was a healthy scratch while forward Boyd Gordon is still recovering from back spasms. There was an abundance of media at the game tonight, including ESPN’s EJ Hradek. Next up for Washington is a day game on Monday in New York against the Islanders at 2pm and then their last game before the All-Star break is in Ottawa at 730pm on Tuesday.
Blogging Note: I had a chance to talk one on one with Erskine and forward Donald Brashear so please check back over the next several days for those interviews.