The Caps came back home on Friday night, after a 2-1 road trip, for a single contest before heading out for 4 more in a row on the road, against the Carolina Hurricanes at sold out Verizon Center. Alexander Semin tallied twice to erase a 2-0 Canes lead and then Mike Green, who had a bad giveaway that allowed Carolina to tie this one up late, scored from the slot off of a nice Nicklas Backstrom feed to win it for Washington, 4-3, in overtime. This was the second meeting of the season between these two teams, who just played a week ago Monday in Raleigh. Washington won that one, 3-2, despite Alexander Ovechkin being ejected early in the first period for a knee to knee hit on defenseman Tim Gleason and the Caps are now a perfect 8-0 against the Southeast Division. Overall the Caps are 20-6-6 in 2009-10.
Here is the period by period play, analysis, and post game quotes:
End of 1st Period: Canes 2, Caps 0
For the second straight game, and just the 10th time in 32 games this season, Washington gave up the first tally of the contest. Green was roughed up high with a punch to the face (no penalty zebras?) and shaken up in the offensive zone and then struggled back up the ice. When the forwards didn’t help out, the Canes had a two on one on John Erskine and he played it horribly allowing the pass to occur for a tap in goal for Jiri Tlusty, his first of the season, past Jose Theodore just 2:01 into this contest.
After some sustained pressure by the Caps, the Canes would go up 2-0 as Eric Staal scored on the rebound of his wraparound as Theo did not hold the left post. Another brutal goal given up by #60 on only the third Carolina shot.
Overall there was a major lack of energy on the ice and in the building tonight in period one. The Caps outshot Carolina, 14-4, but Cam Ward was solid in net and Washington did not go to the crease area with much vigor. Mike Knuble returned for the first time in 10 games, but it was clear his broken finger was still bothering him a bit and his timing was off. Mathieu Perreault is back from food poisoning and he has brought some spark. Matt Bradley also returned for the first time since last Saturday’s punch from Daniel Carcillo and then the birth of his son, Henry, and he showed a little bit of jump. I would imagine that after 4 straight scoreless periods Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau is going to let his troops have it between periods. Washington needs to find some emotion.
End of 2nd Period: Caps 2, Canes 2
Green, after getting roughed up high before the first goal of the game, seems to be on a mission to hit every Carolina player in sight this evening. About 3 minutes into period two, the ultra slow Erskine made a turnover in the neutral zone and Carolina had a two on one rush but Milan Jurcina blocked the Hurricane shot to end the threat. Erskine is really struggling against a very fast Carolina team.
At the 11:46 mark, referees Stephen Walkom and Don VanMassenhoven finally called the game’s first penalty with Ray Whitney going off for hooking. Ward would make a great toe save on a one timer by Ovechkin on the only real Washington threat as the Caps once again overpassed with the man advantage. With the building and the Caps seemingly dead, the home marketing staff broke out the “Unleash the Fury” montage in the second period in an attempt to get the crowd and the home club going.
It worked as the fans got loud and the Caps came out with one of their best shifts of the game and when Jeff Schultz made a great keep in at the left point he was able to get the puck to Ovechkin at the top of the left circle. The Great #8 fired a beautiful cross ice pass to Semin and #28’s shot was even prettier finding the top shelf to make it 2-1. Washington then followed that goal up with more energy and the line of Perreault, Eric Fehr, and Tomas Fleischmann buzzed in the offensive zone and were unlucky to not tie this one up.
Unfortuately the Caps were then hit with a too many men on the ice penalty and Tuomo Ruutu kicked one towards the net and in off of Green but the referees immediately waved it off. After a lengthy review the call on the ice stood and Washington killed off the remainder of the penalty. With 30 seconds left in the period Boudreau put the big line back out and Ovechkin set Semin up for a nice one timer but Ward made the save of the night. The puck went back down in the Washington zone and Backstrom sprung Semin on a semi-breakaway with Gleason trying to catch #28. Semin used one of his patented curl and drag moves but the puck rolled in on Ward, who misplayed it, and he put it right back on Semin’s stick. The Hurricane killer would bury it with 0.6 seconds left to tie this one up.
Boudreau switched up his lines for the second period moving Semin up with Ovie and Backstrom and putting Knuble with Brendan Morrison and Eric Fehr and it seemed to get the team going. This should be a good third period with Washington playing well but Theodore is the wild card in this one as he has not looked comfortable in goal at all.
End of 3rd Period: Caps 3, Canes 3
Washington came out on fire for period three and on a delayed penalty call Perreault made a beautiful pass to Flash as Ovechkin was streaking to the net and #14 buried it by Ward to give Washington its first lead of the night. Superb play by #85 who has brought all kinds of energy to this one. The Caps continued to pressure and Ovechkin made a nice a long pass to Semin and #28 nearly beat Ward for the hat trick.
A bad Brooks Laich giveaway on the boards led to a Hurricane opportunity and he compounded things by taking a hooking penalty. #21 is having a rough night. Carolina put some serious pressure on and Theodore made his best save of the night by far on Staal from the right wing circle. The Caps were able to kill the penalty and they went the other way with Tomas Fleischmann firing a quality shot on #30 and Bradley appeared to have an empty net but Jay Harrison blocked the tap in and Ward covered the puck.
The Great #8 then drew an interference penalty on Joni Pitkanen and Semin forced Ward to make a big glove save early. After Fleischmann nearly scored Green made a bad giveaway that sprung Gleason for a breakaway and he beat Theodore up high to tie this one up. Bad play by #52 and his goalie didn’t bail him out either.
Perreault almost scored on a wraparound but Ward would not be fooled and shortly thereafter the Caps almost took the lead as Morrison set up Knuble in the slot, but Ward made the save and #22 shoved the rebound wide of the net. The teams clamped down in the last three minutes and the game headed to overtime.
On the second shift of OT, Backstrom sacrificed his body to block a shot and that started a rush the other way. Ovechkin and Backstrom went in two on two with Green trailing the play and #8 almost scored. Ovie and Backstrom kept the pressure on and #19 found an all alone #52 in the slot and he buried it stick side to give Washington the victory.
Here are the post game quotes and analysis:
Semin OWNS (cue Denny Demieux Slap Shot voice) the Hurricanes and he now has 21 goals and 15 assists in 25 games against the Canes. Boudreau’s decision to move #28 up with Ovechkin and Backstrom after the 1st period was another shrewd coaching move by the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner and I asked him what he said to the team after the opening period, other than making the line combination switch.
“It wasn’t much. I just don’t think we played good. There were four 3 on 2’s and we were circling everywhere and even though the shots were pretty one sided I think on the basis of scoring chances they had as many as we did, so we just got to get back to it and play the way we can. We weren’t getting the puck deep and we were trying to be fancy and when we are trying to be fancy nothing works,” said Boudreau on his first period adjustments.
“I’m obviously disappointed after the Buffalo game, the way we played, and we had a slow start again tonight but the good thing with this team is – and it starts with Bruce – there’s never any negative energy and we always stay positive and when we do that good things happen.” said #52 on a big reason why the Caps were able to erase the two goal hole they dug themselves in the first period on Friday night.
“We outshot them but we were lazy and I think it is the culmination of not practicing, we haven’t had one in a week, and it is playing five games in seven nights. It is more that than any mental lapses,” said Boudreau on the poor first period.
Green had a crazy night but at the end of the day he was the hero instead of the goat. I will take #52 on my team any time and his play this year is likely making the big wigs for Team Canada think hard about whether or not they will choose the talented blue liner for their Olympic squad. Green was on the ice for 6 of the 7 goals on the evening and he logged 29:01 of ice time.
“He was the first one that came up to me after the game and apologized. I said ‘No need to apologize,’ Really good players, if they are having a bad game, still have a tendency to step up and be in the limelight at some point, on a positive note,” said Boudreau on Green who was roughed up before the first Carolina goal. “It was a pretty good punch..he said he was dazed, he blacked out for a second and that is why he didn’t get up because I gave him crap for staying [down] on the ice. He struggled a little bit and our power play struggled a bit but in the end, Nicky [Backstrom] made a good play to him and he scored a goal,” finished Boudreau on the 2008-09 Norris Trophy finalist.
Back to Semin, who was +2 on the night while Ovechkin and Backstrom were +3 (and #19’s diving shot block set up the whole game winning sequence). #28’s goal at the end of period two, off of a great Backstrom feed, are the kind of tallies that can really energize a team and that was the case on Friday.
“As I was skating forward, I looked at the clock and there were five seconds left and I was contemplating whether I should shoot or what. And I just stopped and I got a lucky bounce and I saw the goalie down so I just shot the puck,” said Semin on his tally that tied the game with less than a second remaining in the second period.
As I mentioned during the live game blog above, the video montage at the game’s midpoint helped Washington and Boudreau confirmed that after the contest.
“Dean [Evason] made a really good point, he said whoever is doing the video board, did the “Unleash the Fury” in the second period and it got the crowd into it, which is a tremenous thing, you know, because we were dead emotionally, I think, and that is what happens when you play alot of games,” added Boudreau on one of the intangibles that home ice can bring to the game.
Perreault, back after eating some bad food and missing a game, had a decent contest and he always seems to be around the puck making things happen.
“He was -2 in the first period but I thought he brought energy when he was out there and he made a nice play on the third goal. You know he still has a long ways to go, I think it was his first point in nine games. When he is skating and on you, and he is very tenacious, it really lifts the other guys up,” said Boudreau about #85. I will point out that the two goals Perreault were on against were not his fault. The zebras should have called Carolina for roughing Green before the first tally and Theo can’t give one up at the side of the net by coming off of his post.
This was the second straight rough outing for Theodore (16 saves on 19 shots) and #60 really is struggling to find some consistency this season.
“I don’t think the 3-0 loss had anything to do with his performance tonight, he didn’t look comfortable on a lot of shots, let’s put it that way,” finished Boudreau on the game winning goalie.
As for the win, it was good for the Caps but they head to Toronto, where they struggled in a back to back situation a few weeks ago but Semyon Varlamov got the team a point in a shootout loss. Washington faces another tough travel night.
“We want to get out of here. Last time we didn’t arrive until 230am in the morning because there was a huge traffic jam and we are trying to get out of here to get as much rest as we can but with Hockey Night in Canada we should have a little more life than the last time we were there,” said Boudreau on Saturday night’s game in Toronto. Expect Michal Neuvirth to get the start between the pipes in the Big Smoke against an improved Leafs team.