Caps Reclaim 1st In Southeast Division

March 06, 2011 | Ed Frankovic

Alexander Semin’s line didn’t have a single shot on goal the entire game in regulation,  but all it took was one in overtime. Semin worked a nice give and go with Marcus Johansson early in the overtime period and #28’s laser through the five hole on Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory just 48 seconds into the extra frame. Goalie Michal Neuvirth (32 saves) was outstanding, including making a huge glove save on Marty Reasoner in the dying seconds, and he has put the Caps back into first place in the Southeast Division for the first time since January. Washington is now 36-20-10 (82 points) heading into Monday night’s 7:00pm 1st place battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning (81 points) on VERSUS.

Here are the quotes, highlights, and analysis from another one goal victory by Washington (Caps are now 19-7-10 in 1 goal games):

– Semin was once again playing with Jason Arnott and Brooks Laich and the chemistry those guys had in the first two games together just wasn’t there on this night. Perhaps it was simply the matchups, but a unit that created numerous quality scoring chances and had the game winner on Thursday night against the Blues just could not get untracked against a young, scrappy Florida club. But Semin delivered when he had to and his goal came with MJ90 and not any of his regular mates. That’s two game winning goals plus an assist on Arnott’s GWG on Thursday in the last four games for Semin, not too shabby!

– Neuvirth continues to make the case that he should be the Capitals #1 goalie come playoff time and his season record is now 22-10-4. He didn’t have a chance on either goal against since one was on a two on one break and the second was on a Panthers 5 on 3 power play from right in front. He continues to get better with his positioning and his rebound control.

– Johansson was my “Hard Hat” player of the night. The young Swede was all over the ice using his speed and he hustles. He is still learning where and when to pass and how to position himself, but he had it down pat on the game winner getting the puck in a perfect place for Semin to slam the biscuit home for Washington. MJ90 blocked a shot while shorthanded in period one by sprawling out on the ice and he had to go to the locker room favoring his right leg. It looked like a potential break or fracture but the smallish kid showed he is a battler and came back to play a strong final 40+ minutes. Without him the Caps don’t win. Way to go Rook!

– Boyd Gordon also had a superb outing and he was chosen as the official Capitals “Hard Hat” player of the game (h/t Mike Vogel, aka @VogsCaps). He threw his body around to block shots while the team was shorthanded and his work on the second Caps goal, which he scored, was yeoman-like. Gordon was only 8-9 on draws though.

– It looks like Nicklas Backstrom’s injured thumb is feeling a lot better because his tally, Washington’s first goal, was a super shot top shelf off of an even better feed from Alexander Ovechkin (1 assist) after the Great #8 outworked the Florida D behind the Caps net. It was Backstrom’s 17th marker of the season to tie the game up at one just over two minutes after the Panthers drew first blood. Given that he was 11-6 on face-offs, you can probably bank on the fact that he has put the dirty Kris Letang slash behind him physically.

 – The Caps didn’t play a very good first period, getting out shot 16-6, but they came on strong in period two and grabbed a one goal lead. In the third period they implemented the defensive system they have been working so hard on and it nearly worked. The Panthers didn’t have a quality scoring chance until they received a five on three power play late in the contest. Boudreau, for the most part, rolled his lines but the Gordon-Matt Hendricks-Matt Bradley unit seemed to get more ice than usual in that frame since they are really good at getting the puck to center and then throwing it deep in the opponent’s zone. It is a playoff type strategy that has been working well for Washington.

“Until we got two minors, I don’t think they’d had too many chances in the third period and we were understanding what we had to do and I thought we played a pretty solid period. We weren’t really trying to score,” commented Boudreau following the victory.

Overall, I like the defensive posture rather than playing barnyard hockey, like this team did a lot of last year, but there is one problem in letting off the gas totally on offense: you sometimes put the fate of the game into the hands of the referees, and that is not a good thing.

– As for the two clowns in striped shirts tonight, Ian Walsh and T0m Kowal, they were horrible and they played a part in both Florida tallies. On the first Panthers goal, Dennis Wideman has his shot blocked at the right point by Mike Santorelli. It was a clean block but #13 followed through and took Wideman out and instead of what should have been an automatic interference call, Michal Repik and Bill Thomas get a two on one break on John Erskine, which they bury. Erskine and the Caps would be victimized again by bad officiating as #4 was called for tripping when he went to the ice to block the passing lane and slid into the rear boards with just under four minutes remaining. Erskine never touches Keaton Ellerby, who jumps in the air and avoids the Caps defenseman but falls to the ice. The zebras incorrectly rule tripping and Florida gets a cheap power play. Then Wideman gets correctly called for slashing setting up the two man advantage that the Cats use to tie the game up at 17:24 and send the tilt to OT. What is more amazing is that Florida had six power plays to just one for Washington on Sunday after the Caps only had one power play against St. Louis on Thursday night. The imbalance is maddening and the Capitals bench boss was not thrilled about it afterwards.

“I’m glad we just answered, seven penalties to one, quite a discrepancy,” started Boudreau in his post game presser talking about winning the game despite the penalty imbalance, “Everybody complains about our power play and rightfully so, it’s not doing that well, but it’s really hard to get a consistency or momentum on it when you are getting one power play a game. I know we deserved some of those penalties but they deserve some that they didn’t get either and I don’t understand the discrepancies, it happens way too often,” finished the Caps coach on the disturbing trend.

I said this after Thursday’s contest and I’ll say it again, you want to really tell me that the Panthers only committed one stinking penalty all night??!! No way, and it is frustrating, especially when you see Ovechkin get dumped right off of the face-off down the stretch directly in front of the referee. The officiating continues to make no sense, and anyone who watched the Flyers-Rangers first period on Sunday knows what I am talking about. I have no idea why Brian Boyle was given an instigator in his fight with Jody Shelley today but I guess that is what you have to expect with the NHL zebras these days??!!

Notes:  The Caps lost the faceoff battle, 33-32…John Carlson (23:49) and Karl Alzner (23:03) led the Caps in ice time. Wideman (22:37) and Scott Hannan (21:54) were the next pair with the most playing time…Boudreau only played Ovechkin 16:53 and Backstrom 17:51 so it looks like he was saving his big guns for the big matchup with the Bolts on Monday. The lack of power play time diminshed their totals as well (thanks blind zebras!)…The Great #8 had four points in the last meeting between the two Southeast Division leading clubs in Tampa in early February…Tyler Sloan played 12:42 in place of a scratched Jeff Schultz. No word on if #55 is nicked up or if Boudreau didn’t like the matchup for Sarge against a faster Florida team in the first half of back to back tilts…the Caps only had 25 shots on net…special thanks to Comcast for running Boudreau’s post game presser which allowed me to re-publish his quotes.