If on Wednesday night you tuned in to something ridiculously boring and a waste of time, like say the State of the Union address, instead of the Washington Capitals game, shame on you for missing out on another Caps impressive and exciting victory, their eighth in a row. The offensive juggernaut that is the 2009-10 Washington Capitals fired a season high 49 shots on net in a 5-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks and goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere, who was superb in defeat. Washington erupted for four third period goals, including three in two and a half minutes early in the final stanza, to turn a tied hockey game into another Capitals party at the Verizon Center. Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and two assists, Alexander Semin notched two tallies, and Michal Neuvirth stopped 30 of 31 shots in a dominating Capitals performance. The Caps, who lead the Eastern Conference and are closing in on first overall in the NHL, are now 35-12-6, good for 76 points, and are just a deuce behind the Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks. Washington is 19-3-3 this season at the Phone Booth.
Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis:
Believe it or not, this was a close game into the third period thanks to Giguere, but after Ovechkin leveled Ducks forward Bobby Ryan with a nice shoulder check by the benches, the energy of the Caps went to another level. Former Capital Alan May, commenting on Comcast, felt that the hit by the Great #8 spurred on the Capitals explosion and turned the lights out on Anaheim. Ryan, who tried to mix it up with Mike Green in the second period as well, was sent whimpering to the bench after the Ovie hit and as May alluded to, the New Jersey boy was one of many Ducks done for the night.
“It often does, I don’t know if that was the turning point, I thought we just kept coming but a hit can be a crowd turner,” commented Boudreau when asked if the hit on Ryan was the catalyst for the Washington victory.
When Ovechkin scored just 36 seconds into the contest after a nice Green keep in that he followed with a shot that was deflected by Mike Knuble directly to the Great #8 (who put it in an open net), it appeared a Caps victory would be an after thought. Washington had 13 of the first 15 shots and if not for Giguere, who won a Stanley Cup and also was the Conn Smythe winner (NHL Playoff MVP) in 2002 in a losing cause to New Jersey, this one would have been a rout. But Anaheim hung around by scoring on a shift when every Capital player on the ice made a mistake in the second period. The third period, however, would belong totally to the Caps.
“The guys like what they’re doing right now. They like winning. We talked about it in the dressing room in between periods. It’s about going after them. [We've] got a good thing going and let’s just take it right to them and see where it leads This was a game that was like a playoff game for us. Can we play in a close game? Can we get the lead and hold onto the lead? Can we do those things? And I thought we did a good job in the third period,” added Boudreau on his team’s third period approach.
“We went into the end of the second period and it’s a playoff game out here. They were playing with desperation and we just buckled down and you know with our crowd here it is exciting to be here and guys just worked hard and we got that end result, a win, and we are on a roll right now,” said defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who notched the game winning tally tonight, his first goal of the season (he also added an assist). #26 has been playing really well since back to back horror show performances in Florida a few weeks back.
Neuvirth, who took over on Tuesday night on Long Island for the third period when Jose Theodore went down with what is believed to be a hip flexor injury (thanks Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post), was very good Wednesday limiting his rebounds by frequently gloving or covering the puck in Washington’s end. The only goal he allowed was a huge rebound but the three forwards (Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, and Semin) all made mistakes that allowed Sheldon Brookbank to fire a point blast that Neuvirth had trouble with because Morrisonn screened him by trying to get out of the way. The other defenseman on the ice, Brian Pothier, was out of position at the blue line so you could fault each of the six Caps players on Dan Sexton’s tap in goal that tied it at one with 8:37 left in the second period.
“I thought he was really good. I thought he controlled everything, smothered it. We ended up getting a lot of faceoffs in our zone, but I think we’re one of the better faceoff teams so when you have that, that’s to your advantage. Out of 30 shots, 15 he smothered for faceoffs which is really, really good,” said Boudreau on the play of #30.
Neuvirth, who made the comment on Saturday night that he thought his career was over after his Sunshine State debacle, appears to have his confidence back, something that Boudreau recognized as well.
“That is a young guy [making a statement like that]. I think his career is fairly safe for the next several years,” said the 2007-08 Coach of the Year on Neuvirth.
“Neuvy was awesome for us, all of our goalies are great, we have great depth, you know that is what you need. Our ultimate goal is to win the Cup this year and you need great goaltending to do that,” finished Morrisonn.
Green (1 assist, +2, 7 shots on goal in 22:26) was superb against Anaheim. He was definitely the best defenseman in the contest, and that included four time Stanley Cup winner and 2010 Team Canada Winter Olympics captain Scott Niedermayer, who Ovechkin made look absolutely silly on several occassions, including the play where he set up Knuble for a tap in that made it 3-1. Nicklas Backstrom also made the Ducks defense look like orange road cones on numerous instances and he picked up an assist and was +2, as well.
“It’s nice from my standpoint that you’ve got those kinds of weapons at your disposal. I knew Ovi was going to have a good game today because he didn’t have any points yesterday. I thought Nicky [Backstrom] was by far the best player on the ice and he just didn’t get rewarded for it, but he was spectacular. But you’ve got weapons on every line that can score and it was again the third line that got it generated. It’s a good feeling to have because what happens then is when you’re behind, you always know you have a chance to catch up,” said Boudreau on his red hot squad.
Knuble, if he can stay healthy. will be a major force for Washington in the post season. #22 now has six goals in his last seven games.
“He just goes to the net and [the puck] is usually around there. He is a skilled player, you don’t score 20 goals a year for 8 seasons without skill,” commented Boudreau on #22′s ability.
Semin has been on a torrid pace with 11 goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games. He appears to be playing the best hockey of his career.
“He sure is playing hard, you can’t say alot of negative things about Alex Semin right now. He is on a roll that only Ovie has seen. He comes to play every night and he is doing it with a smile on his face, which is really good,” added Boudreau on the immensely talented #28.
The Caps were a perfect 2 for 2 while shorthanded and Boyd Gordon put on an absolute penalty killing clinic on his shift on the Ducks second power play opportunity. Gordon was all over the ice getting in the shooting and passing lanes then making good clears to waste Anaheim power play time. This guy, when healthy, is a very valuable piece to the Capitals potential Stanley Cup puzzle.
Fan and locker room favorite, Matt Bradley, had a nice fight with Mike Brown at 6:24 of the third period. Brads, who is a known bleeder, may have actually won that bout!
For the Ducks, who are in a major playoff position battle in the Western Conference, this was a disappointing loss on a 13 day road trip.
“Yeah, it’s a little frustrating because after that first goal in the third period it seems like we went flat. It felt like everybody just quit. We were still in it. It was an unfortunate bounce off of [defenseman Steve Eminger's] skate and these things are going to happen. It would have been important for us to come back and re-establish our game but for some reason we didn’t seem to have the energy anymore to fight it off. They have a good team. They’re playing well at home. Their best player, [Ovechkin] is often every night their best player. They’re getting some good goaltending. Often, other teams probably give them too much respect and tonight we gave them a little too much respect. You can’t watch them play, you have to play with them and hope for the best,” said Giguere on his team along with his thoughts on the Caps.
Here are some interesting notes following Wednesday’s victory, courtesy of the Caps Media Relations Department:
- The win tonight matches the Capitals longest winning streak since the club recorded a 10-game streak in 1983-84 (the team had eight-game streaks twice since then, most recently in 1988-89). Bruce Boudreau has led the Capitals to a winning streak of at least seven games in each of his three seasons behind the bench.
- Washington has outscored its opponents 41-18 during the eight-game winning streak (an average of 5.13-2.25).
- The Capitals extended their Southeast Division lead to 21 points, the largest in franchise history.
- The Capitals surpassed 200 goals on the season tonight (now 203, not counting shootout goals). No other team in the NHL has 175 goals.
Next up for the Caps, after a day off on Thursday (no practice), are the Florida Panthers on Friday night at the Verizon Center.